NEWARK, N.J. — James Carpenter approaches you with a big smile and a closed mouth. You ask him a question or two, and the smile remains. He parts his lips to say a few words. When he’s done, and your notebook page remains 98/100th unfilled with his quotes, you try again. This repeats as long as you, as a reporter, have the temerity to persist.
At Super Bowl Media Day, one poor soul with a note card filled with at least eight questions tried for 10 minutes to get Carpenter to say anything of substance. It turns out that the question-asker talked twice as much Carpenter before walking away a defeated man.
Carpenter, a former Hephzibah standout, doesn’t have much to say. Try all you want, but the Seahawks guard, who will participate in his first Super Bowl this today vs. the Broncos, is a big man with a tiny word output. And that’s just the way it is.
“It’s the same way with us,” fellow Seahawks offensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre said. “Every year, he gets a little more comfortable. But yeah, James is a quiet guy. To him, he’s just being humble. I don’t think he wants to come off too brash. He’s a big man, and I don’t think he wants to catch anybody off guard. But he’s more relaxed now.”
Yes, you can totally see how relaxed the 6-foot-5, 321-pounder is. He’s relaxed to the max. Just check out this transcript from Media Day on Tuesday.
Question: How long of a journey has it been for you since you played at Hephzibah to be here right now?
Carpenter: “It’s been a long journey. It’s been, like, seven years.”
Q: There have been some ups and downs, though, right?
Q: But mostly ups I guess.
C: “Of course. A lot of good things have happened.”
Q: What’s it like being here right now?
C: “It’s great. It’s very exciting.”
Q: What about your transition from tackle to guard? How difficult was it to adjust to that?
C: “Playing left guard is my best position. It wasn’t hard.”
Q: Even though you were a tackle in college?
C: “Yeah, but it wasn’t that hard.”
Even if he doesn’t want to expand on it, the truth is that Carpenter has played an important role on the Seahawks this season, seven years after leaving the Augusta area.
Carpenter originally signed with Iowa State, but academic issues forced him to spend two seasons at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Carpenter then signed with Alabama before his junior year and took over for superstar Andre Smith at left tackle. He spent the next 27 games of his career as a starter helping protect quarterback Greg McElroy and opening up lanes for eventual first-round NFL Draft picks Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram as the Crimson Tide won the 2010 BCS championship.
Surprisingly, even to him, Carpenter also was drafted in the first round – analysts had predicted he’d either be a third- or fourth-round draft pick – and though he started every game in which he played, he battled injuries his first two years in Seattle.
By the beginning of 2012, he had been moved to left guard permanently after spending his first season as a right tackle, and he started the first 10 games of 2013 as well before splitting time with Paul McQuistan.
And while it’s unclear whether the Seahawks will want to pay Carpenter the $1.4 million of base salary he’s owed next season for the final year of his rookie contract, the coaching staff seems to believe in him.
“James is a hard-working guy; he works his butt off,” said Seattle defensive line coach Travis Jones.
“He came from a great program, and he understands about hard work. He’s a big, strong man. Jeez, you don’t see very often a guy who has that type of strength and power that he has and the ‘want-to.’ The future is very bright for James.”
Not that he said so on Tuesday.
Not that he said much of anything Tuesday. At that, Jeanpierre gave a knowing and somewhat sympathetic shrug.
“Yeah,” Jeanpierre said, “give it another three years or so.”