The Green Bay Packers secondary didn't play well without Morgan Burnett in their season-opening loss to San Francisco.
Knowing they must improve, the back end of the Packers defense may have to play another game with their top safety sidelined. Burnett is questionable for Green Bay's home opener against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
He practiced Friday on a limited basis for the third straight day, but the coaches aren't sure if Burnett will be cleared to play after having a setback with a hamstring injury last week.
"Morgan is further ahead than he was last week," coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. "He has practiced more than the medical report (indicates) in the morning. So you feel good about that. But how he comes in here tomorrow and what goes on the next 48 hours will be the key if he plays."
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said the team spent this week getting the young trio of M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Chris Banjo prepared to play Sunday in case Burnett isn't available again.
"Those guys have practiced an awful lot this week and prepared," Capers said. "So I feel like they'll be better prepared this week than they were a week ago."
The Packers were set to have Burnett return to game action last weekend after he missed the final week of the preseason. But he had a setback with the injury toward the end of last week and subsequently was held out of the game at San Francisco.
With Jennings and McMillian as the starters at safety against the 49ers, Green Bay allowed several big pass plays.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns, and 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin dominated on the receiving end with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 34-28 win over the Packers.
"Obviously, you want your best players out there, but we don't make excuses," safeties coach Darren Perry said. "We were in position, we just didn't make the plays. That was the bottom line. It wasn't anything special (the 49ers) did. We didn't make any plays, and we certainly allowed for some big-play opportunities through some missed tackles that we can easily correct. From that standpoint, there's really no need to hit the panic button."
Yet with another young and talented quarterback set to throw at them with the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, there's some cause for concern about the state of the safety position as the Packers try to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2006, McCarthy's first year as coach.
Green Bay released veteran standout Charles Woodson after last season, giving Burnett greater responsibility going into his fourth pro season.
"Obviously, Morgan's one of our better players," Capers said. "He's been a guy that's been the quarterback of our defense back there for the last couple years. He's very decisive and assertive in making his calls and all those kinds of things. So that would be a real bonus for us" if Burnett can play Sunday.