Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett will start Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams despite sustaining a broken right hand during a blitz period on Thursday.
Burnett was held out of Friday’s practice, with undrafted rookie M.D. Jennings taking his reps during the brief portion of practice that was open to reporters. Burnett, however, is listed as probable, meaning it’s a near-certainty that he’ll be in the lineup against the winless Rams. He spent practice working with trainers to find a cast that will give him the right mix of protection and productivity.
“It feels funny,” Burnett said. “Whenever you have something taken away, you appreciate how much more you need it. It feels funny, but it’s just some adjusting I have to get used to and a little more focused.”
Burnett said the pain and swelling is subsiding, though the residual swelling was evident on Friday. He assumed it was a “bruise or knot” on his hand but an X-ray revealed the extent of the injury.
“He was coming on a blitz off the edge, and I think it kind of got caught between him and another guy’s pads,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The other guy, according to Burnett, was defensive end Jarius Wynn.
“When he first did it, I thought he hurt his shoulder,” Capers continued. “Hopefully, he can respond well and go out — he’s a tough guy — and go out and play well for us and get through these next two weeks and then we’ve got an extra week with the bye week, too, to get that thing healed up.”
Burnett, who is tied with teammate Charles Woodson, among others, with an NFL-high three interceptions, will be challenged to tackle and catch with one fully functioning hand.
“You’re going to have to focus more on trying to see the threads on the football and try to bring it in the best way you can,” Burnett said.
Burnett, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, is eager to play. And the Packers need him, with three-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins out after sustaining a career-threatening neck injury in the Week 2 game at Carolina. If the hand is too much of a hindrance, Jennings appears to be next in line, though Capers could turn to his “Corner Okie” package in which Woodson plays safety and Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are the cornerbacks.
“He’s probable. That’s what we’re thinking,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Burnett. “He wants to play. We have some time to test it between now and then. Anytime you have a broken bone in your hand, there’s things you have to look at, but he feels and Dr. (Pat) McKenzie feels that he can potentially play with this.”
Bulaga ready to start
Bryan Bulaga looks like a safe bet to return to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a sprained knee.
McCarthy shot down the notion that it would be wise to give the knee another week to heal.
“When he’s cleared to play, he’s cleared to play, and we need to play him,” McCarthy said. “I think you start calculating based on how maybe let’s try to give him an extra week because we think we can get it done, that’s a mind-set I think is very, very unhealthy.
“Bryan Bulaga is ready to go to play in this game. That’s what he was told at the beginning of the week. That will be the approach. It was important for us to have Marshall (Newhouse), Derek (Sherrod) and Bryan prepared for this game. I feel like we’ve accomplished that.”
Packers injury report
Out — LT Chad Clifton (knee/hamstring); DE Mike Neal (knee). Questionable — C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith (foot; did not participate). Probable — RT Bryan Bulaga (knee; limited); S Morgan Burnett (hand; did not participate); WR Greg Jennings (groin; limited); CB Pat Lee (back; limited); LB Clay Matthews (quad; limited); TE Andrew Quarless (knee; limited); G Josh Sitton (ankle; limited); CB Charles Woodson (foot/knee; limited); LB Frank Zombo (shoulder; full).
Zombo said he’ll wear pads on top of his shoulder pads for extra protection for the scapula that he broke in the preseason.
“If it was up to me, I wouldn’t,” Zombo said. “Kevin Greene wants me to wear protection and obviously the trainers do. I probably will. From what the doctors have told me, it’s thicker than my other ones (pads), and it’s stronger than my other ones. So, I should be good.”
Rams injury report
Questionable — G Jacob Bell (hamstring; limited); TE Michael Hoomanwauni (head; limited). Probable — DE James Hall (back; full); LS Jake McQuaide (illness; full); DT Darell Scott (thumb; probable).
— For the second consecutive week, voters at NFL.com selected Aaron Rodgers as the FedEx Air Player of the Week. Rodgers threw for 396 yards and two touchdowns in a come-from-behind win at Atlanta.
— Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will "start to collect blood samples" in the coming days for human growth hormone (HGH) testing and "testing should begin within two weeks." The announcement came after a meeting with the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform committee that included the NFLPA and USADA, and Goodell said all parties agreed to the timetable.
— Ryan Grant’s streak of 333 carries without losing a fumble was snapped at Atlanta. He said he was guilty of carrying the ball too low, and that he might need a productive performance to get back in the coaches’ good graces in his timeshare with James Starks. “I don’t have control over that. What I do have control over is how I play. (Rodgers) has the utmost confidence in what I can do for him and what I’m going to do, and I just have to maximize what we get. You just don’t know how the game’s going to play out. It’s one of those things if you don’t have control over it, I don’t even sweat it.”
— The Packers are reminding fans coming to the game to plan ahead for enhanced screening that will take place and allow extra time for entry into the stadium. Gates open at 10 a.m. — two hours before kickoff. Fans are asked to enter the stadium earlier than they have in the past, use the stadium gate listed on their ticket, and bring a minimal amount of things into the stadium.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.