Hawthorne will start but Carroll will play

The bad news for rookie first-round pick Ahmad Carroll: He will not be in the starting lineup Monday night at Carolina. The good news: He'll get plenty of playing time.

Packers coach Mike Sherman on Wednesday said he will start the veteran Michael Hawthorne at cornerback when the Packers open the season at Carolina.

Sherman, however, said Carroll not only will play in the dime (six defensive backs) defensive package but he'll receive some snaps in the base package.

"He's just not going to start the game," Sherman said.

The mellow Carroll didn't seem fazed by the decision. As he's said throughout camp, he just wants to help the team win.

"It don't make a difference. When my number's called, I've got to show them I'm ready to play, whether it be in the dime, special teams. Wherever my coaches need me, I've just got to make sure I'm focused and ready to play," Carroll said.

Carroll was ready to play last Friday during the preseason finale at Tennessee. Starting in place of an injured Hawthorne (strained back), Carroll shined. He broke up several passes and capped his big night with a beautiful leaping interception.

Hawthorne, meantime, has struggled throughout the preseason. In his last taste of game action, he was beaten for 30-plus-yard gains by Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith on a short crossing route as well as a deep sideline pattern.

Like Carroll, Hawthorne downplayed Sherman's decision.

"Listen, I got a job. I'm on the 53-man roster, so I'm not worried about keeping my job," Hawthorne said. "That's not how this game goes. You might have to be diversified and bounce around to help the team. So, I don't look at it as a starting job. Coaches put who they like on the field. That's everybody on the team. You've got to fit into your role."

Hawthorne and Carroll are battling for Mike McKenzie's post at left cornerback. Assuming he doesn't have a sudden change of heart in the coming days, McKenzie this weekend will miss the first of 17 weekly $162,000 paychecks.

The Packers are ready to move on, with or without McKenzie. The standout cornerback's most outspoken critic, quarterback Brett Favre, said as much Wednesday.

"It's not that you're not disappointed in him, but there's a bunch of other guys on this team who have given their all and are willing to do whatever it takes to win. And that's who we're going to support," Favre said.

As for the popular theory that the Packers can't win without their shutdown cornerback, Favre disagreed.

"Oh, I'm sure we can," Favre said. "When (linebacker) Mark Fields went down for Carolina last year ... they still got to the Super Bowl. And I'm sure now with him back they feel even more confident and understandably so. So, it can be done, and it has been done. And there's no reason why we can't. We can't let one guy affect us one way or the other."


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