PHOENIX – The Green Bay Packers may never replace Nick Collins. They miss the three-time Pro Bowl safety terribly, even though coach Mike McCarthy believes that there is young talent at the position with Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Sean Richardson.
A 2005 second-round pick out of Bethune-Cookman in general manager Ted Thompson’s first draft, Collins suffered what has turned out to be a career-ending neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season. The Packers eventually had to release him because he wanted to continue his football career against the Green Bay doctors’ advice, but he has yet to find a team willing to clear him and sign him. It’s unclear whether he’s officially given up hope of playing again.
"Nick’s a great player,” McCarthy said during Wednesday morning’s NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore hotel. “That’s one (where), I don’t think Ted will ever get over that one. You’re talking about a guy that was probably in the middle of a Hall of Fame career. That’s one we talk about quite often, but hey, have you have to move on.”
The Packers have gotten inconsistent safety play ever since from Burnett, a 2010 third-round pick who has flashed his potential; Charlie Peprah, who started for an injured Burnett in 2010 and for Collins in 2011 before his release last summer; and Jennings, McMillian and Richardson after veteran Charles Woodson converted to safety from cornerback but missed nine games with a broken collarbone.
“I really like Morgan Burnett. I feel like he’s going to take a big step this year,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “Morgan does everything that you ask, he’s got to start cashing in on the opportunities he has around the ball. I thought he did an excellent job when Charles went down with his injury playing down around the line of scrimmage. I thought Morgan was extremely disciplined and productive down there.
“I feel very good about Morgan back there, and I like our young guys. McMillian, he’s here everyday. He’s been back for quite some time. He’s in there working out. M.D. Jennings, he needs to grow. He made some strides. Sean Richardson’s back and hopefully he can get healthy. We’ve got some really good young guys.”
Richardson’s season ended with a neck injury that required surgery but McCarthy gave the impression that he has been cleared to return.
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