Packers' 1st-round pick Randall picking up corner on the fly

August 5, 2015


Green Bay Packers’ Damarious Randall hydrates during NFL football training camp, Saturday, Aug. 1 , 2015, in Green Bay, Wis

GREEN BAY — Damarious Randall is learning about life as an NFL cornerback on the fly.

If the Green Bay Packers' first-round draft pick is going to make mistakes, it might as well happen in training camp against some of the best offensive playmakers in the business in teammates Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson.

Having to face that kind of test each day helps make the high points of his first NFL camp stand out, like when he picked off Rodgers in practice earlier this week.

"Just the pace of everything, just trying to learn how fast the NFL is really played," Randall said Tuesday. "Everything is starting to slow a little bit."

It's a solid start for the defensive back out of Arizona State, where he played safety out of necessity. But Randall played cornerback earlier in his career, and he said he's still comfortable at that position.

The Packers liked his potential enough that they took him with the 30th overall pick to help replenish depth following the departures of veteran cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency.

"Looks comfortable. Looks like his understanding is high. He's very natural (with) a lot of things," coach Mike McCarthy said about Randall.

Returnee Casey Hayward, a fourth-year cornerback who has shown flashes of playmaking ability, would appear to be a favorite to fill the starting job opposite of Sam Shields, though it's too early for McCarthy to name a starter.

McCarthy does know he has youthful options at cornerback.

"Well, I think the corners as a group are off to a good start. They're getting their hands on some balls, as you saw again today," he said Tuesday. "Everybody's working hard, looks good. Don't have a depth chart, sorry, for you yet."

Staying healthy might be the biggest key for Hayward.

He had surgery after the season for a stress fracture in his foot, and the recovery kept him out of offseason workouts. It wasn't until about a couple weeks before the start of camp in mid-July that Hayward said he was full go.

"It's showing now. I'm still getting more comfortable and confident with each practice," Hayward said last week.

Among other options at cornerback: Micah Hyde, a third-year player out of Iowa who has shown the ability to play corner and safety; and Quinten Rollins, a second-round pick out of Miami (Ohio) who's practicing again after missing the first few days of camp with a hamstring injury.

Undrafted free agent LaDarius Gunter, out of Miami, has also made a couple impressive plays, building on a nice showing he made in offseason workouts.

But out of the rookies, Randall will draw the most attention. He figures to play a good share of snaps in the regular season even if Hayward wins the starting job.

Randall knows it will be important for him to quickly forget about the bad plays in camp, like when Nelson beat Randall deep down the right sideline to haul in a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from Rodgers.

For a rookie, a negative can turn into a learning experience.

"I just ask a lot of questions," Randall said. "It's like any time I do get beat on something, I would ask (Nelson and receiver Randall Cobb), 'Why? How?' to just try to figure out things."

NOTES: Clay Matthews missed a second straight day of practice after McCarthy said he was holding out the star linebacker as a precaution because of knee soreness. Matthews insisted Monday that he would be fine. ... RB Eddie Lacy was pulled near the end of practice because of what McCarthy said was a sore foot. ... WR Jared Abbrederis remains out with a concussion.



Associated Press