Packers might have options at safety

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Thirteen months ago, the Green Bay Packers gave Morgan Burnett an $8.25 million signing bonus as part of a four-year, $24.75 million contract extension.

Now, there's a chance he might not be among their top-two performers at the safety position this summer.

In fact, if there's one starter in danger of losing his job, it might be Burnett.

The fifth-year veteran won't play in Saturday's preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans, opening the door for rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to start alongside Micah Hyde, who has made what coach Mike McCarthy said is a "seamless" transition from cornerback to safety.

The way Hyde has performed throughout the offseason and during the first two weeks of training camp, it's hard to imagine him losing his grip a starting job. And if Clinton-Dix performs like a first-round draft pick should, he will warrant playing time, too.

Throw in third-year pro Sean Richardson – who garnered unprompted praise from McCarthy on Thursday -- and combine that with the fact that Burnett underachieved last season and now has an oblique strain that kept him out of practice most of the week, and there are suddenly all sorts of possibilities at the position.

"Anything's possible," Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said when asked about those scenarios.

He will know more after the Packers have a couple of preseason games in the books, but at this point Perry could not rule out that Burnett might not be among their top-two safeties.

"These guys haven't played in one game [at safety],” Perry said. "Micah's playing a new position. Ha Ha is coming straight out of college. We know what the expectations are, but again, this is the NFL and you should never underestimate this league and the challenges that are out there if you're not ready to play. We haven't done anything. We haven't tackled anybody to the ground. We haven't seen guys play hurt, there's so many factors that go in that these games will showcase, and that's what we're looking forward to seeing.

"But I feel very good about what we have and I can’t wait to see the guys play, because they've been working their butts off and they want to show what they're capable of being."

It would be a drastic change if the Packers were to take Burnett out of the starting lineup. When he healthy, he has been a starter ever since he came into the league as a third-round pick in 2010.

On Thursday, McCarthy said he considers Burnett a starter but then added, "We don't get caught on 11 players, especially [when] the emphasis for our whole defense is to play more players."

There might be room for all of them on the field, at times. The Packers have practiced with a package that included Burnett, Clinton-Dix and Hyde on the field at the same time.

It's been a tough start to camp for Burnett. He missed a practice in the opening week because of an ankle injury and then strained his oblique muscle on Monday.

"It's part of the game; nicks and bruises are going to come along with the game," Burnett said. "It's just all about getting the proper treatment and getting back out there."