The Green Bay Packers still haven’t been able to shake their hamstring issues.
A week after cornerback Casey Hayward suffered a flare-up that’ll keep him out of Sunday’s regular-season opener in San Francisco, safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Brad Jones returned to work on Friday with hamstring soreness that now has both starters listed as questionable to play against the 49ers.
Burnett sat out of Friday’s final practice completely while Jones was a limited participant. It easily could be just precautionary, but if Burnett was unable to play it would mean Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings would start in the secondary after competing all camp for the spot opposite Burnett.
If Jones were unable to go, fourth-year veteran Robert Francois would step in on the heels of his most impressive camp in Green Bay.
“We’ll see how it goes. We’re being smart with those guys,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “And really talking about the whole team you get to that point, it’s 48 hours, it’s important for everybody to get themselves ready to play the game. It’s something we’ve always stressed, when you get off the field on Fridays, the opportunity now to physically get ready. So hopefully it’s no more than that.”
The one reason the Packers could error on the side of caution relates to Hayward, who suffered a badly pulled hamstring days before the start of camp that held him out the first 3 ½ weeks of camp.
Hayward returned to practice leading up to an Aug. 23 game against Seattle. He managed an interception on only 10 defensive reps before aggravating the injury and now being out indefinitely.
The Packers aren’t strapped for safeties after deciding to keep undrafted rookie Chris Banjo as their fourth during last weekend’s roster cuts, but Burnett’s presence would be undoubtedly missed if he weren’t able to play.
He hasn’t missed a game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament four games into his rookie season in 2010 and judging by Jennings’ comments the team is optimistic that 32-game consecutive start streak won’t end on Sunday.
If he can’t make it back, Jennings and McMillian will be ready after combining for 1,148 defensive snaps a year ago and 1,532 total.
“Both of us are ready. We played a lot of snaps last year,” Jennings said. “I think it’ll be our first time just playing together besides the preseason. I think both of us are ready, but I think Morgan will be ready to go. He looked pretty good this week at practice.”
The Packers still will have an interesting decision to make if Burnett does play as they’ve yet to formally declare a starting safety opposite the 24-year-old safety, who inked a four-year extension in July.
Jennings, who started the 10 games after Charles Woodson broke his collarbone, remains listed on the depth chart as the starter at strong safety over McMillian, but the two rotation the entire preseason, including games.
During the offseason program, the Packers hoped one of the two would separate themselves, but right now they're still viewed as interchangeable.
“This will probably a game-time deal in terms of (Burnett’s) status, so we’ll kind of have to wait and see,” safeties coach Darren Perry said. “Those guys are prepared and things like this happen. Whatever the outcome may be, if we have him, we’ll continue and act as if game plan won’t change regardless of who’s out there. We’ll just move forward and expect both guys to play at a high level.”
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