KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Never mind the three turnovers, the small crowd or a 50-yard playing field that must feel depressingly claustrophobic to a man who once marched the Dallas Cowboys into the NFL playoffs.
After nearly four years of career setbacks, personal disappointments and drug-related arrests, something positive has finally happened for Quincy Carter. He started, and completed, a game in the Arena Football League.
Though the Kansas City Brigade sits miles beneath the NFL, it's at least one step above the Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings of arenafootball2, the quarterback's last port of call in a long and bumpy voyage that one day, he prays, will return him to the big time.
Since he was dismissed by the Cowboys in 2004, inching upward instead of spiraling downward has been all too rare for Lavonya Quintelle Carter.
'It feels good to be back on the field,' said the lean and strapping 6-foot-2 athlete, who appears in excellent physical condition. 'I'm a little encouraged.'
But only a little.
While hitting 23 of 43 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns, Carter also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble deep in his own territory as the Rattlers romped 73-34.
No one was putting all the blame on Carter, who hadn't played in a game in almost 10 months.
Several of his passes were dropped. His receivers almost never made any yardage after first contact. And a banged-up offensive line did not distinguish itself against one of the AFL's better defenses. The loss was the second-worst in the history of a team that dropped to 3-11.
'I'm going to be thinking about these three turnovers 'til I get back on the field,' he said. 'I just want to get back in practice and work hard. But it did feel good to be back.'
On Monday, Brigade coach Kevin Porter still was not saying whether Carter would get a second start on Saturday when Kansas City visits the Los Angeles Avengers.
'You're asking a lot of him to come in and play,' said Porter. 'I don't think he had a lot of support around him. But he did throw two interceptions.'
A second-round draft choice out of Georgia in 2001, there was a time when Carter proudly trod the same path that Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach had walked. Starting all 16 games, he led the Cowboys to a 10-6 record in 2003 and into the playoffs.
Now he waits to see if he'll be benched in favor of a guy who goes by the name 'D. Bryant' and is 3-10 on the year.
'Life has adversity,' he said. 'You've just got to keep going.'
The summer of 2004 is when it all began to unravel. Cut by the Cowboys, he wound up starting three games for the New York Jets after Chad Pennington got hurt. But then came treatment for drug addiction and his release by the Jets. Since then, he's been signed and quickly released by Montreal of the Canadian Football League and been arrested on Dec. 16, 2006 in Irving, Texas, on possession of marijuana.
He was playing well for the BattleWings in 2007 until he was suspended briefly for missing team meetings. Then, allowed to return, his rocket arm hurled a team-record eight touchdown passes in one game. Then last Oct. 12, he was arrested in Shreveport, La., on marijuana possession charges.
Now here he is in Kansas City with the Brigade. And tiny though it may be, it is one small, halting step back up.
How far will he get? He won't hazard a guess.
But there is an NFL team almost literally right around the corner from the Brigade's offices, and an NFL head coach who knows him well and has shown interest.
Kansas City Chiefs' boss Herm Edwards coached Carter with the Jets and visited him last month shortly after Carter arrived in town.
The customarily loquacious Edwards, however, sent word that he does not want to talk about Quincy Carter.
'He just wants to let the guy have a chance to get his life back together,' said a spokesman.
In the meantime, Carter claims to being doing exactly that.
'You work through your mistakes and keep fighting,' he said. 'That's what quarterbacks are made of. You go through adversity, you get back up and keep chucking.'
Giving up and giving in is not an option, he insists.
'No, I can't allow myself to do that,' he said. 'I've worked my butt off too hard. I love this game too much.'
Will he ever throw another pass in the NFL? Time may be running out. He turns 31 next October.
'I just don't know,' he said. 'I've got to take care of football here first. I've got to win games. The rest will take care of itself. I can't look too far ahead. I'm just going to go day-to-day and see what happens down the line.'