The Green Bay Packers defensive backfield is anything but settled. Although rookies Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas have performed well thus far in camp, both have missed practice time. Carroll was out for a brief time at the beginning of camp while details of his contract were being ironed out, and Thomas was sidelined with a bruised knee over the weekend.
In addition, several players have missed practices due to injuries and Mike McKenzie still has not reported to training camp. However, there have been some bright spots according to GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman. Among the players he recently praised are Carroll and Al Harris.
He is especially impressed with the leadership Harris has shown in only his second season in Green Bay.
"Al Harris, since the day he has been here, has gotten better and continues to work as hard as anybody out here," Sherman said. "He has a tremendous work ethic and I think he is quicker than he was a year ago. I thought he had a good season last year and I think he will have a better season this year.
"The way he goes about his job and the enthusiasm with which he plays his position rubs off on the younger guys. I don't know that it has rubbed off yet, but it will eventually as they watch and learn from him more and more. If they all worked as hard as Al, we'd be in great shape."
Sherman is especially pleased with Harris' attitude and the way he always carries himself like a starter. He suggested that some of his other players should do the same.
"Here's a guy in the league that never thought of himself as a backup," Sherman said. "He always thought of himself as a starter. That's what I tell these guys out here. 'People told you that you are a backup and you are content being a backup, but who says you aren't a starter.'
"Al Harris never thought he was a backup and here he is, maybe a little later than he wanted to, but he's starting for the Green Bay Packers and doing great. He helped us win a playoff game at home last year. He's a special guy."
Carroll Holding His Own
It's the same story every year. When a rookie comes into camp his every move is scrutinized. This is certainly the case with a number one draft pick. Ahmad Carroll has proved to be no different. People are paying close attention to the 25th overall pick from Arkansas, but Sherman said he is more than holding his own.
"I think Ahmad Carroll is playing very well," Sherman said. "I don't see many balls being caught on him. He takes almost 75 percent of the reps in practice and he is going against good receivers everyday."
Sherman said that Carroll will continue to improve but added that he likes what he sees so far.
"I think he has done a very good job of learning the position. He's got a long way to go, no question about that, but I am very pleased with where he is now. I don't see anybody running away from him and I don't see him backing down from any challenges. Our guys are catching balls, but they catch them on all of our guys at different times."
"Fergy" The Quarterback?
The Packers continue to unveil new wrinkles in their offensive game plan. During Tuesday's morning session, the offense showed a creative side fans in Green Bay aren't quite used to.
Running a reverse is one thing, but when you run a reverse and then throw the ball, that is a unique form of trickery. That's exactly what Robert Ferguson did Tuesday, and it worked when Donald Driver caught a pass along the right sideline. Driver jokingly stated that Ferguson could be a quarterback in a pinch.
"'Fergy' can throw it when he wants to," Driver said. "He was trying to pump fake like he was a true quarterback, but we normally have Javon Walker or Antonio Chatman throwing the ball. Ferguson can be number four or five.
"Most likely if Ferguson became quarterback, we're not going to throw the ball, most likely we're going to run. He went to Texas A&M. They never threw the ball there, they always ran."
Dangerous Kick Return Duo
Training camp is still in the infant stages for the most part, but it is never too early to get an idea of who will be handling the return duties on special teams. Sherman thinks that he just might have a double threat for the kickoff return unit in Carroll and Najeh Davenport.
"We don't do a lot of live kickoff returns until we get into the preseason against our opponents," Sherman said. "That will be the first time we'll get a chance to see them. Obviously Carroll has speed there. He gives you that dimension alongside Najeh Davenport. Najeh will be the guy back there. He's done a nice job for us and hopefully that will continue."
Special teams coach John Bonamego isn't etching anything in stone just yet, however.
"I think it's still too early," Bonamego said. "A lot of that will depend on what Ahmad is playing on defense. Those things will unfold as the preseason unfolds."