The Green Bay Packers will need to find at least a two-game bridge between starting strong safeties. Rookie Morgan Burnett suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday's 28-26 victory over the Detroit Lions, coach Mike McCarthy confirmed, but incumbent Atari Bigby can't be activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for two more weeks.
The Packers' options include Derrick Martin, who played "OK" in Burnett's place Sunday, McCarthy said. Charlie Peprah could get a look, as could Jarrett Bush if the Packers move him from cornerback to safety. Bush served as the Packers' nickel back Sunday.
Burnett showed some promise during his 3-plus games in the Packers' lineup, especially as it related to ball skills. But the biggest issue here is not his loss as much as it is the gap between now and when Bigby will be ready. He skipped all of the offseason program in a contract dispute and re-injured his ankle during a pre-training camp conditioning test, so he's almost 10 full months removed from any football activity.
It's reasonable to assume Bigby would need more than one week of practice before he's ready to play in a game. PUP players aren't eligible to practice until after Week 6.
"He's been working out," McCarthy said. "He's been attending the meetings. We won't really know until we see Atari on the field. We haven't had Atari on the field since last year to see exactly where he is. Obviously he knows our defense and has the experience."
Strong safety won't be the only position in flux this week. Kick returner Jordy Nelson could be replaced after losing two fumbles Sunday. McCarthy will consider cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Pat Lee, as well as running back Dimitri Nance, during practice this week.
"There's accountability back there," McCarthy said. "You have to hold onto the ball. I think Jordy's done a good job the first three weeks. I think he's doing a good job of recognizing what we're trying to do from a return standpoint. I think we're doing a much better job blocking on the return game. But there's no excuses for having the ball on the ground twice. We're not going to play like that."