GREEN BAY — Oren Burks’ season isn’t over. But he’s not exactly sure when it will begin.
The Green Bay Packers second-year inside linebacker confirmed Tuesday he avoided what could have been a major injury when he only partially tore his left pectoral muscle during the first defensive series of the team’s Aug. 8 preseason opener against the Houston Texans. Burks said that he won’t need surgery and that means he could be back sooner rather than later.
“We’ve had a lot of opinions and been going back and forth, but pretty definitive that I’m not going to be doing surgery,” Burks said after doing some light drill work during Tuesday’s practice. “It was just a partial tear. It was a matter of how I was recovering and looking at the scar tissue. It’s starting to scar up pretty well. I’ve just got to get my strength back up and mobility.
“It definitely could have been a lot worse. I’m in a good position to come back this season and really make an impact.”
Burks was seeing extensive action alongside fellow inside linebacker Blake Martinez with the first-team defense — and not just in the base defense. Before his injury, Burks was staying on the field in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s nickel group, with a lineman coming out in favor of an extra defensive back.
A third-round pick last year from Vanderbilt, the 6-foot-3, 233-pound Burks started his college career as a safety so his size and speed appeals to Pettine because he’s able to drop in coverage and still be stout against the run.
“Most of the time with pec injuries, you’re pretty much done for the season,” Burks said. “I was praying that it would be something else and it ended up being some great news. I’m really excited.”
Although Burks battled a shoulder injury last season and saw his playing time dwindle late in the year, the Packers are clearly counting on him this season. They have nothing but young, unproven alternatives behind him on the roster, so general manager Brian Gutekunst could be in the market for a late trade or a waiver-wire pickup after final cuts Saturday.
Asked what the timeline might be for his return, Burks couldn’t say. He’ll likely miss the Sept. 5 season opener at Chicago but could be back soon after.
“I can run now. I’m going to be wearing the harness, like I did last year (with the shoulder injury), so it’s not too much of an issue,” Burks said. “I’m definitely going to have to be pushing my limits in conditioning and hopefully get a couple weeks of practice in before we get into game reps. … I think it’ll be a couple weeks.”
Getsy to call plays
Past head coaches who called their own offensive plays, from Mike Holmgren to Mike Sherman to Mike McCarthy, historically would hand off play-calling duties to their offensive coordinator for the final preseason game. Matt LaFleur is no different, with one exception: He’s handing play-calling off to quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy — not offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — for Thursday night’s preseason finale against Kansas City at Lambeau Field.
Hackett has been an offensive coordinator before and called plays in the regular season for both Buffalo and Jacksonville in previous stops. LaFleur said Getsy actually called plays in practice the past two days along with Hackett so he could take a 30,000-foot view of practice.
“Hackett’s called a lot of games over his career and I thought it’d be a good opportunity for Luke to get out there and get his feet wet with the play-calling process at this level,” LaFleur said, adding he called plays for Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay in 2017 for the Rams’ final two exhibition games. “It definitely affords you just the ability to sit back and observe everything that’s going around.”
Jones didn’t ‘fit’
To understand how far Josh Jones fell in Green Bay, consider this: Gutekunst once was so high on Jones’ potential he went into McCarthy’s office during the 2016 college football season to show McCarthy film of Jones at North Carolina State, saying he’d be a great fit in Green Bay.
Less than three years later, Gutekunst waived the malcontent safety on Sunday, parting ways with a former second-round pick after just two NFL seasons.
“It might not have been the best fit. But Josh is a talented player. We wish him the best,” Gutekunst said Tuesday. “I think we really tried to make it work here. It just came to a point where it was time. We needed some bodies for this game and obviously Josh hasn’t been able to be out there. So it was time.”
Asked why he didn’t fit, Gutekunst replied: “I’m not going to go into it too much, but I think fit it’s not only your ability on the field, but I think in the organization, as a whole. … I’m fond of Josh. I think he’s going to have a bright career in front of him. It’ll be interesting where he ends up.”