The next Randy Moss? Hawthorne will get his chance

When the Packers signed Michael Hawthorne a year ago, the cornerback had designs on being a two-way player. He even boasted of having the wide receiver skills of Randy Moss.

While with the New Orleans Saints, the 6-foot-3 Hawthorne lined up at receiver on the scout team. Upon signing with the Packers last year, Hawthorne said a Saints assistant coach had told him "he had never seen a person do some of the things I had done besides No. 84 in Minnesota."

Hawthorne may get that chance, as Packers coach Mike Sherman moved his struggling cornerback to the other side of the ball for most of Wednesday's practice.

With Hawthorne being pushed out of the cornerback picture, rookie first-round pick Ahmad Carroll is expected to get his first professional start Sunday at Detroit.

Carroll played most of Monday's game after Hawthorne was knocked from the base unit after suffering a blow to the head early in the game. Carroll generally struggled, as you'd expect from a rookie who had missed the prior two games with a groin injury. Most notably, he yielded a 30-yard pickup to Eddie Berlin on a third-and-23 play. Carroll gave Berlin way too much space, bit on an inside move and slipped when Berlin broke for the sideline. Earlier in the game, Carroll would have been beaten for a 24-yard touchdown pass but Drew Bennett dropped the ball.

"There's still some things he needs to work on, but he's made a lot of progress. I think the only way you really get better is to play in the game," Sherman said, noting Carroll had been "really making some progress" before the injury and arrival of the since-traded Mike McKenzie.

The soft-spoken Carroll realizes the pressure is on.

"Right now, they're not expecting me to just come in and play. They're expecting me to come in and have an impact and not have to worry about me," Carroll said.

For his part, Hawthorne said his demotion — he will serve as the third cornerback or a cornerback-safety in the dime — had less to do with his level of play and more to do with Carroll's draft status.

"Giving him a shot, that's fine and dandy," Hawthorne said. "He's going to be the future here. We like to think we hope he'll be the future here, as well as Joey Thomas. Let's shoot it straight. But you have to have growing pain. It's not going to be easy. I've been through this before."

The Hawthorne experiment is the resumption of an experiment undertaken for a short time during training camp this summer.

"It's fun; it's an opportunity. Who knows what may come about out of this opportunity?" Hawthorne said.

The Packers were without NFL receiving leader Javon Walker (sprained thumb) and No. 4 receiver Antonio Chatman (dislocated) pinkie at Wednesday's practice. Assuming those two are healthy for Sunday's game — Walker is listed as probable on the injury report and Chatman isn't mentioned at all — it's hard to imagine Hawthorne being ready to make an immediate impact at his new position.

"We're just letting him get his feet wet on certain things because if you get into an emergency, you have to have a guy who can go in and do something," wide receivers coach Ray Sherman said after Wednesday's practice.

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