GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – If Green Bay cornerback Ahmad Carroll was as mature on the field as he is off it, the Packers would be delighted.

Drafted for his great speed, the second-year player out of Arkansas has yet to realize his potential in the NFL. Instead, he has a reputation for penalties and an immature streak that drives his coaches to distraction.

Perhaps no play better summed it up than last week, when Carroll forced a fumble that helped seal the game late in Green Bay’s win over Atlanta. Immediately after the ball popped loose, Carroll went over to the Atlanta sideline for a brief staredown – while the ball was still in play. It didn’t draw a flag but got him a sharp rebuke from Packers coach Mike Sherman.

Contrast that with two days later, when Carroll was at a fund-raiser to support the foundation he created to teach high school students life skills such as opening a checking account and applying for health insurance. In other words, teaching them to be adults.

Not exactly what you’d expect from a player with his reputation. He was trying to improve on that Monday night, when the Packers (2-7) hosted the Minnesota Vikings (4-5).

“Football and life is totally different,” Carroll said this week. “You all see me every day in this life.”

Carroll’s first season was full of growing pains. At one point, coaches made him wear boxing gloves in practice to try to break him of his habit of grabbing receivers. He didn’t help his cause with the coaching staff when he decided not to spend the offseason in Green Bay, instead working out on his own, including boxing lessons.

The results have been mixed. He has two picks and has broken up three passes this season. But he’s also been flagged eight times for various offenses. In the season opener at Detroit, he was penalized three times for illegal use of the hands. He was flagged another three times at Cincinnati for delay of game, pass interference and being offside.

Even in the Atlanta game, Carroll’s forced fumble was almost overshadowed by the pass interference call he was hit with during the Falcons’ game-tying drive.

Though he set a Georgia state record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.41 seconds, Carroll acknowledges he doesn’t trust his speed. He starts to panic when receivers get by him, going for the grab rather than using his burst to catch up.

Defensive coordinator Jim Bates said numerous players in the NFL come into the league with a maturity problem but eventually blossom into solid players. He said they typically make big strides by their third year. If they haven’t gotten it down by then, they probably won’t. He said the clock is running on Carroll.

“He’s still a young player,” Bates said. “He has good plays and some plays that I’m sure he wished and we wished we had back. He’s trying to make strides.

“It’s been frustrating for him and frustrating for us as far as the inconsistencies. That’s what we’re trying to work through.”

Fellow Packers cornerback Al Harris can relate. He remembers going through a stretch his second season in which he was flagged a dozen times for various penalties as he struggled to get comfortable. He said Carroll will eventually be all right.

“That’s part of the game that he has to get things together and realize that certain stuff is not necessary,” Harris said of the taunting. “He’ll get it.”

Away from the field, Carroll is hoping to establish a chapter of his foundation – called The Longest Yard – in every high school in Atlanta and Milwaukee.

In addition to teaching life skills and preparing high school students for the work force, Carroll said the foundation is trying to help people make home ownership a reality. He’d like to eventually help 100 families purchase a home.

“Of course I need to grow up,” Carroll said of his play on the field and last week’s taunting episode. “You go out there and make plays, that’s growing up. You get more comfortable in the game, and you understand the game, that’s growing up.

“Growing up, too, is taking accountability, saying I was wrong. It ain’t going to happen again.”

AP-ES-11-21-05 1556EST

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