Young corners get interference education

Welcome to the NFL, kids.

Rookie cornerbacks Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas got a bitter taste of what awaits them as young, unproven and unrespected cornerbacks during Saturday night's 19-14 victory over New Orleans at Lambeau Field.

Carroll, Green Bay's first round pick, and Thomas, one of Green Bay's three third-round picks, were flagged three times for pass interference. A season ago, under the officials' let-them-play philosophy, it's likely none of those offenses would have been whistled.

Carroll had a particularly rough night. He was hit with three penalties — he lined up offsides, got caught for holding and then cost the team 39 yards with a pass-interference call.

Thomas, meanwhile, was flagged for a 28-yard pass-interference penalty in the end zone on the play after Carroll's major infraction. Those two penalties gave New Orleans an easy touchdown to cut Green Bay's lead to 13-7.

On the next possession, Thomas was hit with a 37-yard interference call. The Packers' defense, however, thwarted the Saints when Kenny Peterson's pass rush led to a Tyrone Rogers interception.

Packers coach Mike Sherman put a positive spin on his rookies' trying night, noting that "flags are flying" even in the direction of veterans all over the league.

"It was great work for these corners," Sherman said. "I think one of the toughest adjustments to make in the National Football League is at the corner position. Our guys, athletically, I'm very pleased with them. Their mentality is great. They come right back on the next play. It's just going to take some time and work them through some NFL-type route running."

Carroll was harsh on himself afterward. Asked to critique his play, Carroll said, "Bad. Bad."

Thomas was a little more upbeat, possibly because he offset his two interference calls with a nice breakup in the red zone and, later, an interception when he beat the intended receiver to the ball.

"You've got to be mentally tough. You have to be because you're going to get calls, things are going to happen," Thomas said. "There are going to be calls. There's going to be situations that you've got to flush and let it go and come back and play. That's what I tried to do. There was one call. OK, I got to let it go. There's another call. OK, I got to let it go. That's how it is. You've got to have that memory where you don't remember. Like, ‘what PI call? I forgot already.' That's how you've got to look at it."

Thomas was victimized one more time late in the game, but it wasn't for pass interference. New Orleans rookie receiver Devroy Henderson turned a harmless sideline pattern into a 70-yard touchdown when Thomas failed to make the tackle or push him out of bounds.

While Thomas had an up-and-down night, Carroll's night was just down. The Saints picked on him repeatedly, going again and again to a slant pattern that Carroll simply couldn't stop because he failed to get a jam on the receiver, who was able to get to the inside with little resistance.

With three weeks until the start of the regular season, there's plenty of time for the coaching staff to get Carroll and Thomas ready for prime time. On all three interference calls, Carroll and Thomas were in position but instinctively reached with their arms to find the receiver. That was fine in seasons past, but it's a penalty now.

"Any time you get a pass interference," Carroll said, "you're not supposed to worry about it. But you want to know what you're doing wrong so you can go back and correct it.

"But bottom line is keep your hands off (the receivers)."


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