A watershed moment for Ahmad Carroll occurred after the Atlanta Falcons game. Head Coach Mike Sherman called him up to his third floor office in Lambeau Field. As Carroll exited the same door frame Vince Lombardi used in his office, he left a different player.
"The talk I had with Coach Sherman really helped me a lot," Carroll said. "He told me when I walk outside that door, 'Don't let it be us just having another talk. You want to leave out here knowing you're going to be one of the great athletes and great defensive backs that walked through this door.'"
Carroll took a big step toward that goal Sunday with one of his best games as a professional, making two tackles and knocking down five passes against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"He did a great job," cornerback Al Harris said. "He's come a long way."
Carroll knows he still has a ways to go. He has made several big plays this year, including the team's first turnover of the season -- a 38-yard interception off Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese in Week 3. But he too often followed up a game-changing play with a negative one.
Case in point -- he entered Sherman's office because of his performance during the Falcons game. In his first professional visit to his hometown of Atlanta, he had four tackles and played a crucial role in limiting the Falcons to 325 total yards. But after forcing Falcons wide receiver Roddy White to fumble late in the fourth quarter, he taunted the Falcons' bench, leading to his visit with Sherman.
As he left Sherman's office, he vowed to become a more consistent player.
"I'm just going to go out there and try to focus and play better," Carroll said. "This is my job. Everything I'm doing on and off the field, I'm working towards getting better on Sunday."
That attitude represents a change for the highly regarded prospect who entered the NFL in 2004 after his junior year and sometimes came off as brash.
"He's matured a lot," Harris said. "He's more professional."
As a rookie Carroll started 11 games and showcased the athletic ability that caused the Packers to select him with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2004 draft. He displayed flashes of his sprinter's speed, which he used to earn All-America honors in the 100 meters at Arkansas. But observers often fixated on his 11 accepted penalties during his rookie year.
"He's been playing well for a while. People have just been looking at the bad things, not looking at the good things," Harris said. "He's got all the tricks."
Carroll has endured his share of good and bad this year. Joey Thomas earned the starting left cornerback position entering the training camp. Carroll then won the job on opening day, but committed four penalties in Week 1, leading to his benching in Week 2. Carroll reclaimed the starting role in Week 3 and for the rest of the season.
He has 32 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defended this year. Sunday's game represented a particularly strong showing, but Carroll knows he still must become more consistent.
"I had some good plays out there," Carroll said. "But I had some bad ones, too, that I wasn't too happy with."
He will continue to receive a lot of opportunities. With Harris playing at a Pro Bowl level, few teams challenge him by throwing in his direction.
"You got Al Harris," Carroll said. "When he's doing what he's doing, of course they're going to come to my side."
If Carroll continues to improve, however, going at Carroll may serve as a mistake for opposing offenses.