Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett missed the team’s season opener at San Francisco this past Sunday with an ongoing hamstring injury, but he is probably to play in Sunday's home opener against the Washington Redskins, as he had participated in Friday practice.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Burnett is “further ahead this week than last week,” and McCarthy knows filling Burnett's void on defense is not easy. “You look at Burnett, you look at his experience in our defense, he is the key communicator,” McCarthy said. “Any time the quarterback of your defense is not with you, the others have to pick it up. He had an excellent training camp, he is taking more of a leadership role compared to past years, and he makes a difference when he is there.”
Burnett said his hamstring is “better than last week”, but he will most likely be a game-time decision for Sunday. “I want to be out there so bad,” Burnett said. “I’m anxious to get out there, but we have to play it by ear. I’ve dealt with this before; I can bounce back from it. The goal is to get better, improve, and keep improving without any setbacks. I’m excited to get back out there, but I have to get healthy so I can perform at a high level.”
Since the Packers selected him in the third-round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech, Burnett has 244 total tackles, three sacks, four forced fumbles and six interceptions in his career. Last season, Burnett led the team with 123 total tackles to accompany a couple of sacks and a couple of interceptions. The Packers inked Burnett to a four-year contract extension during the offseason.
Without Burnett on Sunday, the Packers defensive secondary allowed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to throw for a career-high 412 passing yards in the opener, but Burnett said his lack of presence on Sunday didn’t matter. “I feel it is a team thing,” Burnett said. “One guy will not make a difference. You win together or you lose together.”
Safeties M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian defended the 49ers passing offense poorly last weekend, but McCarthy said the Packers planned on having Burnett play. This week, McCarthy said the Packers are ready to go “whatever direction” on Sunday versus Washington. “I feel as a safety, it is your job description to make sure everyone is organized,” Burnett said. “Those guys (Jennings and McMillian) understand the defense and their job description is to do the same thing.”
McCarthy said rookie safety Chris Banjo could possibly see playing time at safety on Sunday if Burnett is not cleared to play in the next two days. "I feel he is ready to play," McCarthy said. "He has had a good week of preparation. I look for him to take a step this week like everyone else, and this is something I definitely think he will learn from."
The Packers run defense was excellent against the 49ers, allowing running backs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Kaepernick to rush for 66 yards on 28 carries. Defensively, the Packers will likely prepare for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris in comparable fashion.
“They are a very similar team, their QB resembles much like the 49ers’ QB,” Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We understand his capabilities and it is something we have noted this week. We feel good about our defense. It’ll be very much the same this week and we’ll do our best to keep him contained.”
As rookies last season, Griffin and Morris drove the Redskins offense to new heights. Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and scored 13 touchdowns—both totals were 2ndbest in the NFL. Griffin completed 66% of his passes for 3,200 yards, threw 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, and he also rushed for 815 yards and seven touchdowns.
“That guy is a game changer,” Burnett said about Griffin. “He has another year under his belt and he understands his offense better. He is capable of beating you with his feet and his arm. He is a good quarterback and a great athlete.”
The Redskins and Packers will kickoff at noon CST on Sunday at Lambeau Field on FOX. Check your local listings for television coverage.
Other News and Notes: The NFL fined Matthews $15K for his late-hit on Kaepernick during the team's season opening loss at San Francisco…Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (toe) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (stinger) are both probable Sunday, and offensive guard Josh Sitton (back) is questionable Sunday, according to McCarthy
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