The Green Bay Packers have no official word on how soon linebacker Oren Burks will return to the field or how severe his injury may be, but the good news is Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst seems optimistic about the Burks’ upcoming season.
After Tuesday’s practice, Gutekunst told reporters he is “really hoping” Burks’ injury is a short term after the linebacker was reportedly believed to have torn a pectoral muscle during last Thursday’s preseason opener against the Houston Texans.
Burks had been taking first-team snaps in the first week of training camp and seemed on track to start at inside linebacker, one of the thinnest positions on the Packers roster aside from staple Blake Martinez.
But while Gutekunst shared no new details on Burks’ injury apart from his sunny outlook, he did spend time offering praise to potential replacement Ty Summers, who was the breakout star of the first preseason game with a game-high 10 tackles.
The rookie Summers will get another chance Thursday night at Baltimore, but he isn’t the only one looking to make the most of extra reps during Burks’ absence with fellow rookie Curtis Bolton and former University of Illinois standout James Crawford.
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If you assume Martinez — duh — and Burks are both locks to make the Packers’ 53-man roster, it leaves three talents competing for roughly one spot. The injury to Burks could open that race a little more, but someone gets cut loose no matter how you spin it.
Summers took the first steps in ensuring it won’t be him with his impressive performance against the Texans, which included nine solo tackles. But while the Packers undoubtedly took notice, they don’t have a short memory.
Crawford was figured to be a long shot to make the roster coming into last year’s training camp, partly on account of the fact that he came from an Illini team that made just one bowl game and won a total of 20 games over his five seasons. It was also in no small part because he arrived at training camp on Aug. 8, well after it had begun.
Not only did Crawford make the 53-man squad, but he became a stable force in the third phase for the Packers as he ran down nine tackles to lead the Packers’ special teams unit. One shining moment, in particular, came when he fell on a fumbled kickoff that helped set up the Packers for a field goal during a 33-30 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6.
None of that, of course, diminishes the impressions Summers has left thus far in his own debut training camp with the Packers. A big and aggressive bruiser out of TCU, Summers doesn’t just beat up on Texans. Fellow Packers are also fair game.
That said, Bolton took reps with the 1s on the inside at Tuesday’s practice alongside Martinez as Summers and Crawford both ran with the 2s. It wasn’t the first time, either. Which is a favorable nod the rookie, to say the least.
More time will tell on Burks, while only more action will show which of the three linebackers will emerge from training camp with the Packers.