A week ago it didn't matter that Morgan Burnett practiced Wednesday and Thursday before the 49ers game. He suffered a setback, didn't practice last Friday and didn't play in the season opener.
You know the epilogue. Green Bay lost at San Francisco 34-28 for an 0-1 start to the season.
This week, the Packers safety finds himself in much the same position, practicing for two straight days––albeit in limited fashion––and his status is still up in the air for Sunday's home opener against Washington.
"I want to be out there so bad," said Burnett. "I'm anxious to get out there and get the season started. But the trainers and guys, they're doing their job. That's why we have to play it by ear."
The key will once again be today's practice session, seeing how he feels and hopefully taking part in the team's final on-field preparations before Sunday.
Game time status projections won't be handed out until after practice.
"The goal was just really improving and not having any setbacks," said Burnett. "We just have to play it by ear, see how it feels come (Friday) and then make our decision moving on."
What put the Packers behind the eight ball a week ago was Burnett receiving all the practice repetitions, which took away from the starting safety tandem of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian being able to work together and intimately learning the nuances of the 49ers offense.
"In this particular case, not playing with Morgan wasn't as big a factor as really Morgan practicing Wednesday, Thursday with the intent of playing," said head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday. "I just think these guys, making the shift Friday, things weren't as clean as you probably would like. I think it carried over to the game. We were probably a step slower than we needed to be in anticipation of some of the routes."
The game film speaks for itself. McMillian had arguably the worst game of his young career, missing four tackles (according to ProFootballFocus.com), allowing several receptions, at least one of which he was responsible for allowing Anquan Boldin for finding the end zone.
Jennings had a slightly better day by comparison, but even he trailed in coverage on a first quarter touchdown to tight end Vernon Davis.
Even so, Burnett will not make excuses for his teammates.
"I feel it's a team thing," said Burnett. "One guy's not going to make a difference. It's a team effort, so I feel as a team you win together, you lose together. And as a team we're going to grow and find a way to bounce back."
It's individual opinion whether one player could be the difference between winning and losing, but it's not exactly going out on a limb to say the Packers defense would be better with a healthy Burnett taking snaps.
Burnett says he feels better than a week ago: "It's better, it's improving, it's getting there," he said. He also said he's dealt with hamstring injuries in high school and college and has bounced back before.
If he's able to return in time for the home opener on Sunday, Burnett will be thrown into the fire with the difficult task of shutting down Robert Griffin III and the Washington offense.
Even though "RG3" looked pedestrian in Washington's first game on Monday Night Football, the Packers can't afford to take him lightly.
"That guy's a game changer," said Burnett. "You can tell now he has another year under his belt, so now he understands his offense better. He understands reading defenses, so the guy's capable of beating you with his feet or his arm, so you have to stick with your coverage a little longer, trust your technique, because that guy's a good quarterback and he's a great athlete."
Motivation will not be hard to come by. If nothing else, Burnett and the Packers will be in the exact same boat as their opponent––both teams looking to avoid an 0-2 start.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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