SANTA CLARA – David Carr's locker is sandwiched between Alex Smith's and Nate Davis' in the 49ers' locker room, and it doesn't get the heavy traffic. Smith is the projected face of the offense. Davis is an intriguing project, a player with a unique ability to polarize Niners fans. Those two have been receiving a lot of interview requests the past few weeks, while Carr quietly goes about his business.
It wasn't always this way, of course.
During his first five seasons with the Houston Texans (2002-06), Carr played, and lived, under a high-powered microscope. As the first overall pick of the 2002 draft – and the first in the history of the Texans franchise – he was expected to lead the brand-new team to the big time. For five years he was celebrated, vilified, gossiped about, analyzed, quantified and generally picked clean.
Eight years after leaving Fresno State, Carr is in a much different place.
Generally considered a bust as the top pick, he has been reborn as one of those capable, unexciting backups who go from team to team and act as insurance should the starter go down with an injury.
It's not as glamorous as his former role, but Carr seems to have settled into a much more comfortable frame of mind.
"Now, it's so much about just football," he said after practice one day last week.
"All that other stuff I worried about when I was younger, how the perception was, how I came across to certain people, even my teammates ... If you master your football stuff and you go out there and you play like you're supposed to, everything will take care of itself."
Carr started only four games during one season in Carolina (2007), and none in his two years with the Giants (2008-09). He said he learned valuable lessons from veterans Vinny Testaverde and Jake Delhomme in Carolina, and from Manning, too.
Most important, he learned how to be himself.