Oren Burks hasn’t played since suffering a shoulder injury while warming up before the Green Bay Packers’ third preseason game. Though the team hasn’t given a definitive update on his status, it doesn’t appear the rookie linebacker will make his return in time for the season opener. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Burks will miss at least the Packers’ Week 1 matchup with the Chicago Bears, though his shoulder issues shouldn’t keep him sidelined for more than a few weeks.
Burks, whom the Packers traded up in the third round to acquire, expected to see significant playing time following the season-ending ACL tear to veteran linebacker Jake Ryan. That likely remains the case whenever Burks does receive clearance to play. In the interim, Green Bay has used a battery of reserves in Burks’ stead, including converted safety Ahmad Thomas, undrafted rookie Greer Martini, and the recently acquired Antonio Morrison. With the regular season formally kicking off in less than a week, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could also consider shifting Clay Matthews over from outside linebacker until Burks returns.
The duration of Burks’ absence could also impact which players the Packers ultimately decide to take into the regular season. Of the reserve linebackers, Thomas possesses the most similar skill set given their shared past experience in the secondary. Martini and Morrison would have a harder time in pass coverage, though each could factor into the run defense. Because of the unique circumstances of Burks’ injury and the roster spot opened by Aaron Jones’ two-game suspension, Green Bay could ultimately keep five inside linebackers on their season-opening roster despite rarely entering the season with more than four.
The Packers have to make their roster decisions official by Sept. 1 at 3 p.m. CT.