Green Bay Packers fans flew into panic mode just before kickoff of Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, and with good reason. With the team already down one starting inside linebacker, Jake Ryan, their promising third round rookie suffered an injury in warm-ups that ended up making him a scratch for the game.
After two impressive early performances from Oren Burks, who had the starting job essentially thrust upon him, seeing him hurt seriously would be one of the last things the team could afford. The team even traded for a linebacker on Sunday, acquiring Antonio Morrison from the Colts, which seemed to indicate that Burks could miss significant time.
Luckily however, it appears that Burks' shoulder injury is not very serious. Head coach Mike McCarthy said as much in his Sunday press conference, and although he did not give a timeline for Burks' return, he said the injury should not be "a long term deal."
Still, any time off for Burks - whether he misses only the preseason finale or if his absence extends into the regular season - will mean more responsibilities for the team's other linebackers. That group includes top backups Ahmad Thomas and Greer Martini in particular, but also the newly-arrived Morrison. Martini started next to Blake Martinez in Burks' place on Friday night, with Thomas taking the field on passing downs.
Morrison's immediate role is unclear, but the former Colt was acquired on Sunday in exchange for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins. He was drafted a few picks ahead of Martinez in 2016 and is coming off a season that saw him start 15 games, but a new front office in Indy and several new linebackers had him on the outside of the roster bubble looking in. Now he'll have just under a week to demonstrate that he is worthy of a spot on the Packers' 53.
When Burks does return, expect him to rejoin the starting lineup rght away. Through two preseason games he has looked like every bit the athletic, instinctive player that he was made out to be , chasing ball carriers sideline to sideline and being a pest for opposing running backs in the passing game as well. If his return does indeed come sooner rather than later, that will bode well for the defense as a whole.