Notebook: Giddy Cornerback Pushes For Starting Position


Feeling Fine

Cornerback Joey Thomas could not contain his exuberance in the locker room following Monday's practice.

"I'm feeling great," he said. "I'm all smiles from ear to ear."

His recovery from previous injuries had left him glowing.

Following his impressive play during organized team activities, he entered training camp as the starting left cornerback. Then calf and hip injuries sidelined him for three weeks of training camp, and Ahmad Carroll received the snaps as starter.

"I'm just getting back to where I was, coming into training camp," Thomas said. "As my health increases, the more comfortable I get, the more confident I get."

The Packers likely will not name their starting left cornerback until Sunday.

If Carroll lands the starting position, will Thomas remain content?

"No. I mean who would be happy if they're not the starter? I'm a competitor, and I expect the best out of myself," he said. "If you're happy and content with not being the starter then I think you're doing the wrong thing and you're in the wrong game."

Regardless, he ended the preseason on a high note against the Tennessee Titans, recording three tackles and one pass defended. He nailed fullback Troy Fleming in the flat, denying him a first down on a third-down pass from quarterback Steve McNair and then later forced incompletions on deep balls to Fleming and wide receiver Drew Bennett.

That performance bodes well for Thomas.

"It was solid. It was a step in the right direction," he said. "The best is yet to come."


Big Whit Could Land Big Role

Although the coaching staff has not announced its starters at guard, rookie William Whitticker has received the majority of the snaps at starting right guard during training camp and will prime himself accordingly.

"I've just got to prepare like I'm the starter and get ready for this game," he said.

Whitticker is battling veteran Grey Ruegamer for the starting right guard position.

"I'm not going to announce the starting guards until I have to," head coach Mike Sherman said.

Whitticker, who openly criticized his own performance against the New England Patriots, played well against the Tennessee Titans but sees room for improvement.

"I have a lot of little mistakes that I need to correct," he said. "I can't have the mistakes I had in the last two games."

But for a seventh-round draft choice to make the Green Bay Packers' active roster -- let alone contribute -- is quite an accomplishment. If he earns the starting position, Whitticker would become the lowest-drafted Packers rookie to start an opening game since wide receiver Leland Glass started against the Chicago Bears in 1972.

That achievement would carry a special meaning for Whitticker.

"It does," he said. "A lot of teams didn't have faith in me. I'm glad the Green Bay Packers did. This is the best place that was suited for me."

Whitticker has never played an NFL game but faced his share of major college games at Michigan State University. In addition to playing against Big Ten competition, he also played in 2001's Silicon Football Valley Classic Bowl against Fresno State and the 2003 Alamo Bowl against the University of Nebraska.

Despite his collegiate experience, he admits he will have some butterflies before the Detroit Lions' game on Sunday. He considers that a natural occurrence.

"You can't play the game without nerves," he said.


Horton Triumphs Over Adversity

As soon as the Packers revealed their active roster, Jason Horton's father called his son -- ecstatic that Jason had become one of the select 53.

The cornerback's reaction was more muted.

"Even my parents were like, 'Jason, you're not happy?'" Horton said. "To come from where I've come from, it's more relief than celebration."

Horton has come a long way to make this year's team.

After an auspicious rookie year in 2004, he looked forward to going through the offseason as a veteran. However, lymph node surgery in March to treat sarcoidosis, the same lung infection that afflicted the late Reggie White, caused him to miss the Packers' post-draft mini-camp and organized team activities.

He then injured his shoulder on the first day of training camp and did not resume practicing until Aug. 8.

Horton made the most of his limited time. He recorded 10 tackles and two passes defended during a strong preseason.

"The best is yet to come," said Horton, who has surgical scar that runs the length of his chest. "I can't wait for this season to start, and I feel healthier than ever."

Just making the team last year was an impressive feat. And then the 2004 undrafted free agent from North Carolina A&T University finished the year third on the team with 16 coverage tackles.

Horton will likely play in the dime package as the fifth cornerback, but he does not mind that role.

"I 'm not a starter right now," he said. "But I can fit into the scheme."

One should not consider the cornerback's reaction to landing a roster spot as stoic. He did not show the outward enthusiasm of his parents, but he beamed about what being a Packers player meant to them.

"That's the greatest thing that ever happened to them," he said. "I'm just so proud that I made them happy. That's a feeling I can't describe."


Cover Boy

Quarterback Brett Favre graces the cover of the October 2005 issue of Men's Journal, which hits magazine stands Tuesday.

In the issue, which features the world's 50 best jobs, Favre outlines a 10-point plan of landing and holding onto your desired profession. Click here for a photo of the cover.

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