GREEN BAY – Morgan Burnett isn’t putting any added pressure on himself after last year’s disappointing season, but the Green Bay Packers’ fifth-year safety also isn’t blaming anyone but himself for whatever went wrong last year.
Even though both head coach Mike McCarthy and safeties coach Darren Perry have said that Burnett would have benefitted from better play at the other safety spot – “We need more production next to Morgan, which I think would definitely help him,” McCarthy said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February – and the Packers invested a first-round pick in Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for that very reason, Burnett said Tuesday that it wasn’t M.D. Jennings’ fault that he and the rest of the Packers defense weren’t better last year.
Jennings, who started all 17 games last season including the playoff loss to San Francisco, wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent and signed a one-year deal with the rival Chicago Bears in March.
“I think I’ve just got to improve, be consistent, continue to play consistently at a high level,” Burnett said following Tuesday’s final open organized team activity practice. (The team has two more OTAs Wednesday and Thursday that are closed.) “Ha Ha, he’s a great athlete. You can see it from his college tape and even from the OTAs, just the way he moves around, he’s picking up the defense fast.
“But I don’t take nothing away from M.D., because in my opinion, M.D. was a really good safety, very underrated. He’s more athletic than what you really think he is. He was good back there. That’s why, like I said, there’s no excuses. Everybody has to come in and collectively get the job done.”
Last season, the Packers were the only team in the 32-team NFL to not get a single interception from the safety position. Burnett, a 2010 third-round pick who had 14 interceptions in three college seasons at Georgia Tech, has only six career INTs in 49 regular-season games – after an INT-free 2013, he hasn’t had a pick since registering two against Minnesota on Dec. 2, 2012 – and has broken up only 37 career passes.
“With interceptions, you’ve got to understand, that’s going to come. And when they come, they come in bunches,” Burnett said. “So you just stick to doing your job, staying in position, don’t go chasing plays because that’s when you start looking bad. So there’s no pressure with that. The only thing we do is line up, play the defense, and the interceptions will come.”
Burnett insisted he didn’t put added pressure on himself last season because of the four-year, $24.75 million extension he signed before the season – “No, not at all,” he said – and also said he won’t put added pressure on himself this year after how last season played out.
“I don’t feel no pressure. I challenge myself as a player because my goal is to improve and get better each and every year, and I want to challenge myself to see where I’ve grown throughout my years in the league so far,” he said. “That’s just my main goal coming into every season. I want to improve and get better and show that growth.”
Assistant coaches weren’t available to reporters Tuesday, but after the first open OTA practice, Perry was adamant that the 25-year-old Burnett will have a bounce-back year.
“I still think Morgan’s a heck of a football player,” Perry said. “I know our critics may not agree, but again, Morgan’s going to be fine and he’s still a young player, ascending. We’ve just got to keep him going.”
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