Oren Burks didn’t just rehab his chest muscle injury during the 2020 offseason. The Green Bay Packers’ third-year linebacker completely transformed his body.
Burks, a 2018 third-round pick for the Packers, suffered a torn pectoral muscle during last year’s preseason that cost him a starting job and was never quite the same despite only missing the first four games of the season. He played just 69 defensive snaps and averaged one tackle per game in 14 appearances, including the postseason.
As Burks revealed in a recent interview with ESPN’s Rob Demovksy, though, his chest injury was far more limiting than it seemed throughout his second year in the NFL. Two months after the Packers’ run ended, Burks was still unable to lift a 135-pound barbell off his chest.
Now, though? Burks is bench-pressing 325 pounds and looking stacked for 2020, as you can see in a few photos shared by Josh Cuthbert, Burk’s strength and conditioning trainer.
Burks Gained Size, Muscle and Some Hops
Demovksy’s piece offered a number of insights into Burks’ struggles over his first two NFL seasons, including the dislocated shoulder that derailed his 2018 rookie year, but one of the most fascinating details was how Cuthbert described his approach with the linebacker.
“His pec didn’t really bother him anymore but it also didn’t function very well,” Cuthbert told Demovsky. “He was unable to really press away from his body with any sort of his force.
“He went from 135 pounds to 325 pounds on the bench press. All the guys can bench press 300 pounds but not all the guys add 200 pounds to their bench press in an offseason. He jumped 39 inches; it was probably 40 but we ran out of room to measure his and (San Francisco tight end George) Kittle’s verticals. They both broad-jumped 11 feet and on top of that he weighed in heavier than he has in the past.”
Could Burks Become Breakout Player for Packers in 2020?
The Packers traded to acquire B.J. Goodson from the New York Giants not long after it became clear Burks would miss time with his injury, and that left little space for Burks to win back his starting role once he returned in late September — especially in his diminished state.
Now, the path is wide open for him as he begins Year 3 in tremendous health and shape.
The Packers opted not to bring back either of their primary starters from the 2019 season, allowing both Goodson and Martinez to sign with other teams while adding Christian Kirksey as their veteran replacement at the position. While the Packers also added fifth-round linebacker Kamal Martin to the group, Burks still offers the next-most experience for the inside and was already seen taking first-team reps on defense early in training camp.
“We have high expectations for him and everybody else in that room,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told media after Tuesday’s practice. “I think he’s got a better understanding of what we’re trying to get accomplished and now it’s up to him to put it all together, to go out and compete each and every day and put it on the practice tape so it can transition over to game day.”