As far as preseason debuts go, Ty Summers should have plenty to be happy about considering the way he raced around Lambeau Field on Thursday night making trouble for the Houston Texans.
The Green Bay Packers‘ rookie linebacker notched a game-high 10 tackles — four more than any other player on either team — with nine of them solo to help lead the Packers to a 28-26 victory in their preseason opener. He also played a team-high 66 snaps, at least seven reps more than his teammates across all three phases.
And yet, in the postgame, Summers avoided reveling in his strong performance and instead lamented the few tackles he let get away from him.
That type of can-do-better attitude will only serve Summers well as he works for a primary role in the middle of the Packers defense. Alongside consistent mainstay Blake Martinez — who is entering a contract year — Summers is leading candidate to fill in for the injured Oren Burks, who the team said Saturday is believed to have a torn pectoral muscle.
Burks, who exited in the first quarter Thursday, has been taking first-team reps throughout training camp and was slated to start on the inside for the Packers this season. Now, as he awaits further tests to reveal more about his injury, the second-year linebacker could be facing a dramatically different year.
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The Rough Road of Burks
Burks was in pursuit of scrambling Texans quarterback Joe Webb III during the first quarter Thursday night, reaching with his left arm when Webb crashed into it before outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert sacked him for a 4-yard loss. But Burks was down, too, and would leave the game without returning.
Immediate reports suggested a shoulder injury, as Burks was seen later in the game on the sideline with his arm in a sling. But Saturday’s reveal that it is believed to be a torn pec added a grim reality to Burk’s situation, one that likely includes surgery.
Dr. David J. Chao, an orthopedic surgeon who often tweets insights about NFL injuries from a medical perspective, offered an at-a-distance assessment upon reviewing film of the play.
Burks has been hurt before for the Packers after last season injuring his shoulder during pregame warmups prior to the Packers’ third preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. It resulted in him missing the first two regular-season games, while also hurting his chances to compete for a starting job.
Burks was again in line for a starting role for 2019 and poised to take a big step — along with the rest of the Packers defense — in the season second of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme of a middle-of-the-pack beginning last year.
Time for Summers to Rise?
Situationally bad for the Packers, the injury to Burks does create more opportunity for Summers to encore his performance Thursday against the Texans.
He added a nice interception against Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer during 11-on-11s in Saturday’s training camp practice, too.
In four seasons at TCU, Summers notched 317 total tackles with 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss at inside linebacker, posing a dominant physical presence but deemed average on lateral moves and adjustments. More reads than reactions was also a concern attached to him coming out of college, according to draft analysts.
But Burks going down alone isn’t enough to guarantee Summers playing time on defense, even if he figures either way to spent time working on special teams.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Silverstein tweeted from Saturday’s practice that Curtis Bolton was taking first-team snaps ahead of Summers, while linebacker James Crawford also figures to contribute on both defense and special teams.
Expect to see a variety of combinations at play when the Packers begin their second preseason game next Thursday at the Baltimore Ravens.