Packers' defense could soon get boost with Oren Burks' return

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GREEN BAY – Second-year linebacker Oren Burks returned to practice Monday with a protective harness over his injured pectoral muscle and shoulder. One positive sign for Burks was that he returned to work without having to don the red, non-contact jersey for the unpadded session.

“I’ve been running and I feel like I’m in pretty good football shape but you’ll never know until you get out there in live reps and that kind of thing,” he said. “Just trying to take it one day at a time knowing that the strength piece wasn’t there but slowly getting better. I keep saying it, ‘one day at a time’ but it’s what you have to do to stay sane in this.”

Burks tore a pectoral muscle in the first preseason game against Houston on Aug. 8 and has not practiced since. He said the deciding factor in his return to the field was that he had rebuilt enough strength in his upper body to do all the things required by an inside linebacker.

“It’s a lot of chopping and shedding,” he said. “If I was a receiver or something I’d probably be good to go but it’s like the world that we live in – it’s moving big human beings so it’s a little bit different.”

Burks couldn’t say if he’d be ready to play Sunday in Dallas, but Packers head coach Matt LaFleur did allow there is some ground to be made up.

“There will definitely be a lot of catching up to do,” LaFleur said. “Anytime you miss – what is it, I don’t know how many weeks it’s been now, eight weeks or so – although he’s been locked in and engaged and been in all the meetings. It’s just about going out there now and getting those practice reps.”

Burks, a third-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2018, missed the start of the 2018 season after suffering a preseason shoulder injury. He returned to play 14 games (four starts) and made 16 total tackles.   

Green Bay Packers linebacker Oren Burks (42) is shown during organized team activities Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Green Bay, Wis.


“I was feeling really confident in the defense going into camp and throughout OTAs and everything, just knowing my role and playing fast,” Burks said. “Just gotta get back to that now. It’s a process but I’m excited for it.”

Heavy workload

Nose tackle Kenny Clark doesn’t see it as a problem, but he and fellow defensive lineman Dean Lowry are racking up lots of snaps in the first quarter of the season because a shoulder injury to Montravius Adams has thinned the ranks upfront.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith fills a spot in the middle on third downs, but even so, Clark played 60 (96.8%) and Lowry 54 (87.1%) of a possible 62 snaps Thursday against the Eagles.

“I can see it (getting more rest) in terms of staying fresh and being able to go 100%, but if they tell me to go in there, I’m going in there,” Clark said. “I understand (it’s a lot). In the heat of the battle, I wouldn’t say I’m fatigued. I never feel like, ‘Oh, man, I’m just going to get knocked back because I’m tired.’”

For the season, Clark has played 83.5% and Lowry 69.2% of the snaps this year.

Adams, Bulaga among seven out for practice

The Eagles game left the Packers hurting and that showed Monday when practice resumed and LaFleur’s team was without three starters and several other key players due to injuries.

On offense, Pro Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (shoulder) did not practice, nor did running back Jamaal Williams (head/neck).

LaFleur said how the club treats Adams’ will be a day-to-day decision as his injured toe is evaluated. Williams was on the field and in a jersey at the start of team stretches, however. He also appeared in the locker room but the team said he is in the concussion protocol.

Defensively, cornerback Kevin King (groin) was not on the field, nor were key backups and special teams contributors Tony Brown (hamstring) and Will Redmond (concussion). Adams also remained out with a shoulder injury.

King optimistic

Cornerback Kevin King, who exited the Eagles game late with a groin injury, said he wasn’t sure whether he would play this week, but he thought he had left before the injury turned into something serious.

King missed four weeks of training camp with a hamstring injury and 10 games last year with hamstring and groin injuries, so the training staff will probably be cautious with him. King was doing an outstanding job matching Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery – holding him to two catches for 32 yards while in man coverage – before leaving with the injury.

It was a boost to his confidence after a rough game against Denver’s Cortland Sutton the previous week.

 “I mean that’s what you want to do, that’s what the top corners do,” he said. “When you get a chance to match up with a guy, you have to step up to the challenge.”

Goodson knows what’s ahead

A familiar sight has been rolling in the Packers' meeting rooms for B.J. Goodson, who made his first career start against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium as a member of the New York Giants on Sept. 10, 2017.

Goodson was beginning his second season with New York, and in that game the Cowboys handed it off to Ezekiel Elliott 24 times. Elliott rushed for 104 yards and the Cowboys won 19-3. Goodson had a career day in prime time, racking up 18 tackles (14 solo) and one for loss.

“They are who they are. They haven’t changed much,” Goodson said. “They’ve got a good bunch down there. We know what to look for, too. I’m looking forward to getting down there and competing.”

Acquired by the Packers at the start of the regular season, Goodson has played four games against the Cowboys and has made 24 total tackles. He believes he brings a bit of knowledge to the defense this week.

“In meetings we talk a lot,” Goodson said with a smile. “I can’t really say a whole lot and then it gets out and they’re like oh, OK. But they know that I know what they’re doing. They’re not going to come up with a brand new, foreign (offense). They are who they are and they’re good at what they do. We’re good at what we do.”

Since coming just days before the season opener in Chicago on Sept. 5, where he played three special teams snaps, Goodson has seen usage go up and down. He played 38 snaps on defense against Minnesota (3 tackles), 25 against Denver (3 tackles) and then just seven against Philadelphia (2 tackles). It’s possible he sees more action in Dallas.

“He’s done some good things for us,” Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “A lot of times it’s going to be predicated on what personnel groupings and what situations we’re in, but he’s done what we’ve asked. I know he’s doing a good job on (special) teams. He’s been solid in practice, solid in the classroom and no problems putting him out there in critical situations and no issues with it."

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