It's time for Carroll to grow up

Ahmad Carroll has a long way to go before he'll be tagged as a good cornerback in the National Football League. The Green Bay Packers' first round draft pick in 2004 was handed the job early last season, then struggled to keep his hands off receivers. While he is the favorite to reclaim the starting job, he'll have to improve in a handful of areas on the field and show some indication of maturity off of it.

As a daily observer of practice at the recent June minicamp, Carroll often showed that he hasn't progressed much in his ability to cover receivers nor ability to handle officials, or the media. Carroll was the object of defensive coordinator Jim Bates' and head coach Mike Sherman's wrath a number of times during practices because he failed to keep his hands off receivers. Surprised? Carroll was flagged many times last season, including 13 times for interference or holding, nine of which were accepted.

Sometimes you wonder if Carroll understands that he cannot touch receivers five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Still he's grabbing and pushing in an attempt to break up a pass, or stay close to a receiver. Yet when warned by a local high school official working one of the minicamp practices to keep his hands off a receiver, Carroll erupted and threw a fit in protest.

On another occasion, Sherman erupted, but directly in the face of Carroll during a seven-on-seven passing drill. Donald Driver caught a short pass over the middle, and was supposed to be "touched" down. But Carroll got a little too physical with the veteran wide receiver and knocked him to the Ray Nitschke Field turf. Remember, the players were practicing in shorts and not wearing any pads, and Robert Ferguson was unable to practice because of soreness in his back.

"Don't do that again, don't do that again!" Sherman screamed at Carroll. "Do you understand me? Do you understand me?"

The feeling here is "no," he doesn't understand. Why? Who knows? For whatever reason, Carroll hasn't figured out that the only way he can utilize his amazing speed is to hone his coverage technique, which ultimately will boost his confidence.

When reporters attempted to get Carroll's comment on the incident after practice in the locker room, Carroll avoided speaking by taking a swig of mouthwash and shaking his head while walking off to the adjacent bathroom. When he returned to his locker, Carroll turned his back to reporters and continued to get dressed while joking with nearby teammates, then briskly walked away without answering any questions.

This is just one incident that shows Carroll's lack of maturity. There are others. Last year he got into a fistfight with teammate Joey Thomas after a meeting. The two say that they are friends and that the fight is behind them, but that is debatable. He displayed a cocky attitude as a rookie, which rubbed some veteran players the wrong way.

To his credit, Carroll, who turns 22 on Aug. 4, has admitted to reporters earlier this spring that he has "still got to grow up" on and off the field. The Packers, however, are not waiting around. They are giving Thomas an equal chance to start at cornerback opposite Al Harris. Both Carroll and Thomas switched off taking reps with the first team during the June minicamp.

"I don't think it's close right now," cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington said. "Ahmad is still doing some of the things he did last year, but he's gotten better, and Joey is continuing to get better each day. Those guys are competing hard, and they're working hard. That's the most important thing right now. They're working hard to get better and help the team win."

Carroll must continue to show improvement in ability and maturity when training camp begins. If the Packers are going to improve their defense this year, they will need Carroll to grow up quickly in more ways than one.

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