Sunday will definitely be a day to remember in the life of rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll. GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Friday that Carroll, the Packers' first-round pick in April's NFL Draft, will make his first career regular season start as Green Bay visits the Detroit Lions.
Carroll, who logged heavy playing time Monday night against Tennessee after missing the previous two games with a groin injury, said Friday that he won't be nervous when his name is called with the starting lineup before the kickoff at Ford Field.
"I'm not too excited," Carroll said. "I've just got to go out there and make plays. Last game, I came in on the second series and played the whole game, so it's not really about starting, it's about getting in and making plays.
"I'm not really nervous. I've just got to make sure I go out there and stay focused. I have to take it one play at a time, be patient and not try to force things."
Carroll did make one start in the preseason, filling in for the man he will replace in the lineup this week, Michael Hawthorne, in the preseason finale at Tennessee. The rookie provided the highlight performance for the Green and Gold that night, turning in three pass defenses and picking off a Billy Volek pass, and looks to continue to be a playmaker.
The young speedster is aware that the coaching staff and the entire organization have high expectations for him, and he knows that there can be no such thing as a slow learning curve when you're thrown into the starting lineup for a crucial division game.
"Right now, they're not expecting me just to come in and play, they're expecting me to come in and make an impact and not have to worry about me, so I've got to make sure I do everything I'm supposed to do to get in there and make plays," Carroll said.
"We don't have time for me to have a slow curve. I've got to go right in and make an impact, get interceptions and make big plays. There's no pressure, I've been playing football since I was five years old. I've just got to go out there and be patient - take it one play at a time and let the game come to me."
One concern facing Carroll is that the 5-foot-10 cornerback will most likely be matched up at least some of the time with one of Detroit's pair of big receivers, Tai Streets and fellow rookie Roy Williams, who both stand 6-foot-3.
The defensive back is confident in his ability, though, and has been studying up in preparation for facing the taller receivers prevalent in the NFC North.
"I've been watching a lot of film on them," Carroll said. "Some tall receivers are finesse guys and some are really aggressive. When you face a receiver that's tall and aggressive, you don't to want to be too aggressive with him because you'll end up tiring yourself out. If the receiver is going to be more finesse and would like to run free and get open, then you want to be more aggressive."
Carroll has faced Williams once before, as the two met last year in a collegiate battle when Carroll's Arkansas Razorbacks faced off with Williams while the receiver was at the University of Texas. The Packer defender isn't taking too much stock in their first meeting, though.
"I'm sure coming into the NFL, he has improved on some weaknesses that I had picked up on in college," Carroll said. "He's probably gotten those things corrected. Same for me, there were probably some things he saw in college that I've corrected. You can't really go on that."
Packer fans can hope that there is at least one thing that carries over from the college ranks to the professional level, though. Carroll's Razorbacks went in as underdogs in the meeting last September, only to come out of Austin with a 38-28 win over the Longhorns.
Carroll and his Packer teammates would love to give the same treatment to the homestanding and favored Lions this weekend.