Injuries costly to cornerback

Thomas has lost too much ground to Carroll to get starting job back

Joey Thomas got a taste of what it is like to be a starting cornerback, but that has quickly soured. Now the second-year pro has got to be feeling a little ill as his chances of starting in the season opener against Detroit have gone down the drain.

Thomas injured his calf muscle on July 31, an injury that kept him out of practice until Sunday. His return didn't last long, however, when he aggravated his hip flexor while compensating for his calf. His latest injury has forced him to return to the sideline where he can only wear a baseball cap and watch his main competition, Ahmad Carroll, seal the deal as the starter.

"He's just rarin' to go. It's unfortunate," said defensive coordinator Jim Bates of Thomas. "He worked extremely hard during off-season to get ready for this preseason and to get ready for the season. It's a shame that he had that injury because he got off to such a fast start."

Thomas' strong performace during the off-season minicamps and opportunity sessions gave the coaching staff enough confidence to name the second-year pro as the starter ahead of Carroll going into training camp.

However, Thomas has only been able to participate in a couple of practices. He missed the team's scrimmages against Buffalo and the first preseason game against San Diego. Coach Mike Sherman said that Thomas will not play in an exhibition game this Saturday against the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo.

"My concern level is we need to get him on the field," said Sherman. "When he's been out here, he's done a very good job, but staying on the field is part of being able to play this game. So we have to keep him on the field."

Don't expect Thomas to start when the Packers open the regular season at Detroit. In fact, he'll probably be used much like he was last year - in the team's nickel and dime passing defenses.

On the flip-side of Thomas' struggles, Carroll has progressed well in camp, according to Sherman. Carroll had all kinds of problems with holding and pass interference penalties in the 11 games that he started last year, but Sherman was singing praises about the team's No. 1 pick in 2004 when speaking to reporters on Wednesday.

"Ahmad Carroll is doing a very good job," Sherman said. "A little more humble this year, quieter. Doing his job. So many times players don't get it. They don't make the transition from their rookie year to their sophomore year, so to speak. Fergy kind of did it and took it to the next level. I'm hoping Carroll can follow those footsteps.

"I'm hoping that he's at that point. I like him in practice. He's paying attention. He's staying focused throughout the practice, hearing less from him other than the defensive calls, and that's a good thing. He has responded well to the challenges we put in front of him. He still has a ways to go. He's not perfect, but he's working and I'm pleased with that."

For Thomas, those words from the coach are nothing but a bitter pill to swallow.


Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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