GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers sat 16 of their projected 22 starters on offense and defense during Thursday night’s preseason opener against Houston.
And they managed to get one of the six would-be starters they did play — inside linebacker Oren Burks — hurt. And Burks’ season could be over as a result, as ESPN.com reported Saturday evening that Burks suffered a torn pectoral muscle.
Burks left the Packers’ 28-26 victory over the Texans with what initially appeared to be a left shoulder injury on the game’s first defensive series. The team listed Burks, who was injured on a blitz during a Reggie Gilbert sack of Texans quarterback Joe Webb just 7 minutes, 16 seconds into the game, as having a “chest” injury when he didn’t participate in Saturday’s practice.
Coach Matt LaFleur said after practice that he didn’t have any update on Burks, who has been running with the No. 1 defense throughout camp in both the base defense and nickel packages.
“I don’t really know anything right now,” LaFleur said when asked if the injury was serious. “It’s kind of wait and see. But I hope not.”
A third-round pick from Vanderbilt a year ago, Burks missed the first two games of the regular season with a shoulder injury but went on to play in 14 games with four starts. He saw his playing time dwindle during the second half of the season, however, and he finished the year having played just 122 snaps (11.5 percent) on defense.
If Burks is out for the year, it would make the second straight year that a projected starting inside linebacker was lost for the season early in camp. Last year, Jake Ryan tore his ACL during a practice during the first week of camp.
With Burks sidelined, the Packers worked undrafted rookie Curtis Bolton alongside starter Blake Martinez with the No. 1 defense, and rookie seventh-round pick Ty Summers, who had a team-leading 10 tackles against Houston, worked with the 2s. Summers had an interception against DeShone Kizer during one 11-on-11 practice period, and first-year inside linebacker Brady Shelton, who dropped an interception against the Texans, later had a pick against Tim Boyle.
“Young guys that still have a lot to learn,” LaFleur said of the inside linebackers. “I thought Ty did some really good things the other night. What’d he finish with, 10 tackles? He’s just got to keep continuing to push through because when he got tired there and missed some tackles. Same with Bolton. There were a couple times we brought him on some blitzes where he was able to make the back miss, but you’ve got to finish plays. Same with Brady as well. He had the pick that was gifted to him and he’s got to finish the play.
“All three of those guys, they’ve showed some flashes, some good things. But they’ve got to finish.”
With veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga resting for Saturday’s practice as part of the team’s maintenance program for him, the offensive coaches might’ve shown a glimpse of what they’d do if Bulaga were to miss time this season. Instead of bringing second-year tackle Alex Light off the bench and plugging him in at right tackle, the Packers instead shifted right guard Billy Turner to right tackle and brought rookie second-round pick Elgton Jenkins in to play right guard during the first 11-on-11 period.
For the next 11-on-11 period, Light worked at right tackle and Turner was back at right guard. Last year’s backup right tackle, Jason Spriggs, was waived/injured late last week after three largely disappointing seasons.
Asked if moving to right tackle is the regular-season plan for replacing Bulaga, Turner replied, “Nothing’s been said to me. (Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich) let me know before practice that I was going to be out at tackle today. I think he wanted to get me some work out there just because Coach knows I can play multiple positions. If we ever get into a jam, it won’t be a situation like it has been in the past for me for other teams, where I’m just getting thrown out there and playing a position that I haven’t played all year long, if ever. It’s being able to get me some work out there in case anything were to happen during the season.”
Fullback Danny Vitale left practice with a calf injury while cornerback Kabion Ento was injured at the end of practice after making a spectacular interception of a Kizer pass intended for Jake Kumerow. … Fullback Malcolm Johnson (groin) also did not practice, leaving LaFleur without a fullback to use on offense. Asked if he changed anything because of the fullback injuries, LaFleur, a proponent of using fullbacks, replied, “Oh yeah we did.” … Defensive end Kingsley Keke (thigh bruise) also did not practice. … Receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis (stinger), cornerback Kevin King (hamstring), running back Jamaal Williams (hamstring), tight end Jace Sternberger (jaw, concussion) and defensive end Fadol Brown (calf) remained sidelined. … With King out, Tony Brown had a terrific final period, locking down receivers on the right side of the field for the No. 1 defense. … Linebacker Greg Roberts (core muscle injury) and recently-added safety Ibraheim Campbell (knee) are on the physically unable to perform list. Campbell, who is coming back from a torn ACL, played in three games for the Packers last season.