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Tariq Carpenter seizes his moment at Family Night

Safety-turned-linebacker snagged two INTs under the lights

Tariq Carpenter
Tariq Carpenter

GREEN BAY – There is a long, storied history of young defensive players who have made big impressions during the Packers' annual Family Night practice over the years.

On Saturday, that moment belonged to Tariq Carpenter.

The safety-turned-linebacker trusted his eyes and technique while catching not one, but two interceptions, after Green Bay went to a live-tackling period.

Carpenter started with a clean interception off backup quarterback Sean Clifford in the middle of the field on third-and-10.

Six plays later, Carpenter was again in the right spot at the right time when he picked off Alex McGough after safety Benny Sapp III dislodged a ball from the hands of Dontayvion Wicks, who was coming on a crosser.

Carpenter's head has been spinning at times this offseason, while he learns an entirely new position, but Saturday night provided a huge boost of confidence for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker.

"Today was probably my best practice I've ever had at the position," said Carpenter after Family Night. "Just gotta stack on that and not make the mistakes twice."

A three-year starting safety at Georgia Tech, Carpenter always knew it was a possibility NFL teams may want to move him to inside linebacker given his size and speed.

After drafting Carpenter last year in the seventh round, the Packers kept him at safety during his rookie year. He played just 16 snaps on defense but developed into a core special-teamer by year's end (eight tackles on 122 snaps).

A jam-packed safety room led to Green Bay moving Carpenter to linebacker this offseason. Over the past few months, he's leaned on All-Pro De'Vondre Campbell, position coach Kirk Olivadotti and even special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia to build comfort at his new post.

Navigating the traffic involved with the linebacker position is the biggest adjustment Carpenter has needed to make, especially after years sitting back in the secondary and crashing down on the ball carrier.

"That's the most difficult with me, especially just being right on top of the ball," Carpenter said. "I'm used to being on the edge outside of the box, coming down into the box. It's a lot. You just gotta know what everybody is doing around you."

As much of a learning curve as Carpenter has faced on defense, he's been a natural fit on Bisaccia's special-teams units. He feels confident in his tackling and coverage abilities, which has led to Carpenter working on several first-team units.

Structurally, Carpenter has ideal traits. He ran a 4.52 time in the 40 at Georgia Tech's pro day, while registering a 39-inch vertical and 11-foot-4 broad jump.

"As far as my traits go, I'm long, athletic, explosive, not really a stout type of guy," Carpenter said. "I'm more of an athlete. I'm strong going forward. I'm strong coming with speed and like I said, I just gotta grow into it."

This summer hasn't even been the first time Carpenter has taken a test drive at a new position in Green Bay. The Packers briefly had Carpenter work with the outside linebackers last season to hone his pass-rush and blitzing abilities.

Occasionally, Carpenter does still feel likes a safety trying to play inside linebacker, but the veteran Campbell has been a great resource in that regard.

Not only does Carpenter see parallels between his body type and Campbell's, but the veteran also has been quick to pull Carpenter aside when a play or a concept might not go the way he wanted.

On Saturday, the 24-year-old linebacker made progress. Yes, it is just one practice and there are still plenty of mistakes to learn from, but Family Night was a step in the right direction towards conquering a new position.

"I feel like a rookie all over again playing a whole new position I never played ever in my life," Carpenter said. "Just trying to get through all these bumps in the road, just get better every day."

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