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Packers rookie Carrington Valentine belies his youth with strong start

Seventh-round cornerback made the defensive play of training camp so far

CB Carrington Valentine
CB Carrington Valentine

GREEN BAY – He won't turn 22 until the day before the regular-season opener, but no one would guess by his early performance that cornerback Carrington Valentine is so young.

Even his teammates.

"Yeah, he's smooth. He's good," veteran corner Rasul Douglas said of the rookie seventh-round draft pick from Kentucky, explaining the elder DBs were just discussing how he reminds them of the way former first-round pick Eric Stokes adjusted quickly to the NFL a couple seasons ago.

"It's like he did a rookie year before, like this ain't his rookie year."

Valentine made the defensive play of training camp so far on Monday, the first padded practice, stepping in front of a quick out route and intercepting backup QB Danny Etling's pass for what would've been an untouched pick-six.

It was a standout highlight, the type his play had been building toward.

Valentine made a strong first impression in the spring with his tenacity, as he took reps further up the depth chart while Douglas and Jaire Alexander were absent from OTAs and Stokes was rehabbing.

That carried over to the start of training camp, where his coverage has been solid, best exemplified in a one-on-one rep Monday against fellow rookie Jayden Reed, another early standout from the draft class.

Valentine was running right with Reed down the seam when the former Michigan State receiver made a great adjustment on Etling's pass and pulled down the contested catch as both players crashed to the turf. Valentine said he just needed to get his head turned around sooner, but otherwise he made it difficult on Reed and it took a great catch to beat him.

"J-Reed's a ballplayer," Valentine said. "I love going against him. Bang-bang plays.

"I'm a competitor. I'm going to make you work now. That's how I feel about it."

The Packers like his approach, and they bet on his upside in using the first of their four seventh-round draft picks on such a young corner who had a year of college eligibility left.

Valentine started two dozen games over the last two years at Kentucky and led his team with 11 passes defensed in 2022, including his lone collegiate interception.

"It means a lot," he said of making a big play in practice that set off a wild celebration by the defense. "I still feel like even though I didn't have a lot of interceptions in college, I had knack for the ball, so I'm just showing that we're here now and I'm displaying that."

Now his task is to keep it up throughout camp and into the preseason games, where he promises to get plenty of playing time. Based on recent history, Alexander and Douglas won't play much, if at all, in the three preseason contests, and Stokes is still working his way off the PUP list.

Thus far, any extra attention hasn't bothered him, even when his secondary mates were chanting his initials "CV" while the media gathered around his locker Monday to discuss the pick-six highlight.

He laughed off the serenade, and explained he's just trying to use his smarts to show he belongs. He feels he's in a good place with the playbook aside from "some minute things I'm still trying to grasp," but to date the traditional rookie moments have been few and far between.

A month from now, if Valentine is able to not only make the roster but place himself next up behind the top four corners – Alexander, Douglas, Keisean Nixon and Stokes – he could wind up being more important to this defense than many would've thought on draft weekend.

"I can't say too much. He's kind of close to me," Alexander said while being interviewed near Valentine's locker. "But he's doing well. He's got his head in the right place and he's got some good vets to look up to. We're going to demand even more from him."