GREEN BAY – Tariq Carpenter had a feeling change was coming.
Although the former Georgia Tech standout began his rookie year with the Packers at safety, there were subtle signs of a looming position switch. Carpenter played linebacker at last year's Senior Bowl and even worked with Green Bay's edge rushers for a brief time last season before sliding back to the secondary.
Ultimately, as a means to better utilize Carpenter's size and athleticism, the Packers have moved forward with plans to convert the former seventh-round pick to inside linebacker, a move many NFL scouts forecasted during the lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft.
They weren't alone in that assessment.
"I kind of already seen it coming," said Carpenter earlier this week during OTAs. "They were just talking about their plans, putting me in packages, because they like the way that I blitz and punt-blocker stuff. I love playing the game. I know I can be very good at it. You're not going to see too many skillsets like mine."
A four-year starter for the Yellow Jackets, Carpenter recorded 223 tackles (153 solo) with 22 passes defensed, four interceptions and three forced fumbles in 52 collegiate games (41 starts). Still, there were questions about whether safety was his best spot in the pros.
Green Bay was open to the idea of moving Carpenter to linebacker but traditionally has left incoming draft picks at their original position in Year 1. That's the approach the Packers took with cornerback/safety Micah Hyde, receiver/running back Ty Montgomery, defensive lineman/tight end James Looney and several undrafted free agents over the past decade.
Only eight OTA practices into his new position, Carpenter admits there have been good days and some bad. His biggest hurdle so far has been learning how to read the defensive playbook in a new way, but Carpenter is thankful for the guidance and feedback he's received from All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell inside the meeting room.
Aesthetically, Carpenter fits right in with the group. Listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Carpenter is the same size neighborhood as Green Bay inside linebackers Quay Walker (6-4, 241), Isaiah McDuffie (6-1, 227) and Eric Wilson (6-1, 230).
"It's just a move we felt like could be in the best interest of him," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur of Carpenter. "Because we've all seen his value on (special) teams and the impact he can make. It's just another way to try to see where he best fits."
The Packers have depth and experience at both inside linebacker and defensive back, two popular positions on coordinator Rich Bisaccia's special-teams unit. McDuffie and Wilson were leading tacklers for Bisaccia last year, while Green Bay also returns veteran stalwarts Keisean Nixon, Dallin Leavitt, Rudy Ford, and Innis Gaines.
As much focus as a new defensive position requires, Carpenter knows special teams are still his most direct path to the 53-man roster. After recording eight coverage tackles in 14 NFL appearances as a rookie, Carpenter has made a concerted effort to improve his conditioning.
"I'm still growing. I still got a lot more work to do," Carpenter said. "Just my work ethic now, I'm always working hard. When I'm on the field, just sprinting to the ball. I'm in great shape. That's just Rich checking on me all season, telling me to run. I just want to be able to run all day because I feel like I can be pretty good if I can just run all day."
From a physicality standpoint, Carpenter doesn't fear playing closer to the line of scrimmage. He welcomes contact. If Carpenter can pick up the nuances of his new position, his unique gifts could be useful for both Bisaccia and defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Carpenter's length and speed (4.52 seconds in the 40 at his Georgia Tech pro day) make him an intriguing option in defensive sub-packages. Wherever Carpenter is listed, he and the Packers both want the same thing – an opportunity for the unique defender to make plays.
"He's a hybrid, he's kind of a freak athletically," Packers safeties coach Ryan Downard said. "He gives us some options to do some more exotic things with him just because he can rush the passer. We're going to see if he can do that. We're going to see if he can cover. … I think he can do both, but we'll see where we put him."