Carroll's career getting a start

The future of the Green Bay Packers' secondary may begin Friday.

Rookie first-round pick Ahmad Carroll more than likely will get the starting nod at cornerback during the preseason finale at Tennessee.

Veteran Michael Hawthorne, who has been starting throughout training camp in place of the holdout Mike McKenzie, has been plagued by a strained back suffered during last week's game at Jacksonville. Hawthorne hasn't practiced all week, which means he likely won't play.

"As of right now, it looks that way because Hawthorne hasn't been able to get out on the field," Packers coach Mike Sherman. "So, if Hawthorne is not out there, Carroll will start."

The injury could open the door for Carroll to win the job on a permanent basis. Hawthorne has experience on his side but has had a rough preseason. Against Jacksonville, Hawthorne was beaten both short and long for big gains by Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith. Hawthorne doesn't have great speed, so the 38-yard gain (nullified due to a penalty) he gave up on a deep sideline route wasn't a shock. But on a third-and-9 situation, Smith ran a short crossing route and had Hawthorne beaten by a couple steps. Not only did Smith get the first down, but he picked up 30 yards.

In the same game, Carroll had perhaps his best outing of the preseason. Gone was the grabbing of the New Orleans game from a week prior. In fact, Carroll had a quiet night against the Jaguars, signifying a lack of balls thrown his way due to good coverage.

"I'm always ready to step in," Carroll said of the possibility of starting. "Wherever the coaches want me at, I'll be able to play."

Carroll had better be ready, because there's plenty riding on his performance. A solid night could win him the starting job. Even if Hawthorne is the starter on opening night, Carroll could earn playing time against Carolina and further down the line by showing his mettle against a talented Tennessee offense.

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