Green Bay Packers S Morgan Burnett has made news over the weekend based on this story that started back when he was playing college ball at Georgia Tech in 2009. But the news of it reminded me that he's a player that has largely fallen off my radar, which is a big change considering how much I was counting on him this time last year.
Flash back to June 2010, after the Packers had traded up that April to select Burnett in 3rd round. With SS Atari Bigby unsigned, and looking like an injury risk, Burnett was being counted on to give them some quality depth or claim the starting job alongside FS Nick Collins. CB Charles Woodson said Burnett was ready to play, and all he needed was game experience. And after Bigby failed his physical, and Burnett was given the first chance to replace him, he looked set as the safety of the future. Unfortunately his future was derailed by a torn ACL.
Since then, S Charlie Peprah has taken over as a reliable starter, and the team rewarded him with a two-year contract. It would be a surprise if Burnett can re-claim his starting job in 2011, but Peprah's 2011 salary is modest for a starter and the team might be willing to leave the competition open. I'd be fine with either of them starting in week 1.
What can we expect from Burnett in 2011? The second year can be a coming out party once a young player has his first training camp and a full season under his belt. But he didn't really have a full season due to his torn ACL. Now he has to get back in game shape after being off the field for nearly 10 months, and it can take an extra season to come all the way back from an ACL.
He's certain to be held out of some drills, and maybe even some early preseason game, as they access how his knee is progressing. That could give Peprah a big advantage as the coaches will have a preference for a player they know is ready to play.
With the team in no rush to force him back into the starting lineup, they might decide to take their time with him if they're at all concerned. He is still looks like the starting safety of the future, and he's certain to get playing time on special teams and in multiple DB sets. I'm not expecting a lot from him in 2011, but that might be just fine based on the circumstances. Instead I expect more from him in the future.