After taking four costly penalties in a loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Aug. 27, Toronto Argonauts defensive back Ahmad Carroll got a serious earful from his mother.
"I love her, but she was killing me," Carroll said. "She watches all the games at home on TV. She said, 'What were you thinking? Are you alright? You looked horrible. Who's coaching you? Are you hurt?'
"She knows football, and where I should be on the field, and she knows when I'm not playing well."
Carroll's mother is much happier with her son now.
After that rough Week 9 performance, Carroll bounced back with a big showing in Toronto's 33-30 Labour Day win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – which included a game-changing interception return for a touchdown and earned him CFL defensive player of the week honours.
This is Carroll's first full CFL season, but he's no rookie.
After a standout NCAA career at the University of Arkansas, the Green Bay Packers drafted the native of Atlanta 25th overall in 2004.
He played 27 games for the Packers over the next 21/2 years, making 93 tackles. But drawing too many penalties ended his days in Green Bay. Carroll then had brief stints with the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars, who waived him in 2007, after he was arrested on gun and drug charges (which resulted in no jail time).
He then played in the Arena Football League and the UFL.
"I enjoyed the NFL, it was a privilege, but you get older and they get younger, so it's all about production and demand," the 5-foot-10, 190-pound defensive back said. "There's a lot of money being made, and your time for making errors is slim to none. I wasn't devastated when it was over, but I knew I wanted to keep playing professional football somewhere, somehow."
Carroll said his agent urged him to stay on the NFL path instead of pursuing the CFL. So he fired him. His new agent agreed the CFL was a good idea.
Current Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones was the first to take an interest, bringing Carroll to the Calgary Stampeders for a tryout in 2010. The Stamps cut Carroll, but Jones kept in touch with him, and when he was hired by Toronto prior to the 2012 season, Jones gave Carroll another shot.
Back home in Georgia, Carroll was convinced this was a league for him, and since securing a roster spot, the 29-year-old has been one of the Argos' most vocal players on the defence.
In Toronto, he lives with linebackers Brandon Isaac, Marcus Ball and Robert McCune.
"His mama called and was talking trash to him, and I was laughing at him, but it was real nice to see my roommate comeback with a pick six when we needed a big play," Isaac said.
"But then he got to call her back this week ,and got some bragging rights with his mom. He let her know he's still the guy that makes big plays."
Carroll said avoiding penalties as a fast-and-physical guy playing bump-and-run coverage is tough, but he gets the message about unnecessary flags loud and clear.
"I'm real excited about it the [CFL player award], but it's a short week, so you don't enjoy it long," said Carroll, looking toward Saturday's game at home against the Ticats. "If you're the player of the week, you get guys who want to show against you that they should be player of the week."