Packers Suddenly Thin At Safety

With Atari Bigby, Will Blackmon and Derrick Martin all out of last night's practice, the Packers were down to four healthy safeties.

GREEN BAY – Three safeties for the Green Bay Packers are dealing with varying degrees of injury issues, but the cumulative effect has forced the team to rely on inexperienced players, at least in the early part of training camp.

Atari Bigby, who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, is scheduled to undergo ankle surgery today by Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina.

Yesteday Bigby called the procedure a scope to remove scar tissue and expressed hope that he would only miss a month or so of action. Still, he's a candidate to begin the regular season on the PUP list and as a result, miss the first six weeks of the regular season as well.

Return specialist Will Blackmon, who is also making the position change from cornerback to safety, dropped out of last evening's practice after experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired knee he injured last season.

Blackmon wrote on Twitter after last night's practice session:

Im good everyone. Thanks for checking up on me. Just have to be smart and take my time with this. I don't have any set backs. I'm just sore.

During a day in which veterans and injured players were on a one-a-day schedule, special teams ace and reserve safety Derrick Martin sat out both of yesterday's practice.

The decision to hold Martin out of both practices is curious and made even moreso by the confusion relayed by head coach Mike McCarthy at last night's press conference. As Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, there's miscommunication going on somewhere:

McCarthy said Martin practiced this morning, so the evening session was his normal practice off. McCarthy must have been mistaken because Martin did not practice in the morning.

With all three players sitting out of practice, the Packers were left with only four healthy safeties last evening, two of them rookies.

The Packers are in good hands with two-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins lining up in his usual safety spot, but beyond him, there are a lot of question marks.

The organization and fans alike are encouraged by third-round draft choice Morgan Burnett who the Packers traded up to select this past April. But the fact is, he's still a rookie, and while he's shown big-play ability, he's there have been times where he's made typical rookie mistakes of being slow to get into position in the large amount of field he has to cover. While it's only been practice, if and when that occurs in a game, Burnett will be even further under  a microscope.

Burnett is the default starter with Bigby indefinitely out of action, but behind him on Thursday evening was veteran safety Charlie Peprah and undrafted rookie Anthony Levine.

Peprah is a veteran with knowledge of the defense, but he's failed to impress in past action, and he's considered by some to be more of a special teams player.

With nowhere else to turn, Levine is getting a ton of chances, and impressed with a leaping interception during 11-on-11 action in last night's practice, but he's still an undrafted rookie with a lot to learn.

Perhaps surprisingly, head coach Mike McCarthy spoke highly of the young safety last evening, according to Bedard:

"I think he’s a young man you ought to keep your eye on," McCarthy said. "He continues to get better. I think he’s really picked it up for a guy that was at the bottom when he started. It’s interesting, you see him, Shields and Burnett, they’re together all the time. Instinctive, tough, smart kid."

Between the potential of the rookies and the optimism that the injuries incurred by the other safeties aren't serious, there's reason for hope that the Packers aren't in dire  straits.

If the Packers are looking for help on the free agent market, there's not much out there. The best of the bunch might be former Packer Mark Roman, followed by Tyrone Carter, Keith Lewis and Mike Brown.

A trade is always a possibility, much the same way the Packers traded for Derrick Martin last season right before the start of the season. The Packers have lots of depth on the offensive line, tight end and fullback where there are several candidates for a trade.

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Comments (11)

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lebowski's picture

August 06, 2010 at 10:21 am

Like I said, it's a good thing we signed yet ANOTHER receiver who has no chance of making the squad when Moturi got put on IR. Lord knows, we don't need to take a look at any kickers or safeties.

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CSS's picture

August 06, 2010 at 10:48 am

There are '0' safeties to sign until the other 31 camps start to trim their rosters.

There are hoards of WR bodies available throughout August you can bring in as a training-camp body, risk-free.

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PackersRS's picture

August 06, 2010 at 10:55 am

That's really more about camp bodies, though...

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PackersRS's picture

August 06, 2010 at 10:54 am

I'm torn with the secondary issue.
In one hand, I believe we're paying Bush Money for Nothing.
And on the other, I can't wait for Burnett to show His Latest Trick...

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lebowski's picture

August 06, 2010 at 11:36 am

Time to tell Bush to Skateaway.

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NYPacker's picture

August 06, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I thought Anthony Levine was a gem in the making. He was great back in college and his coaches always praised him for his play. Why he went undrafted is a mystery but I'm glad we have him. I doubt he makes enough noise to warrant a roster spot, but he's definitely worth the practice squad.

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Jeremy's picture

August 06, 2010 at 12:17 pm

The Bills have a bunch of safety depth and their needs match the Packs excesses. They started Jamon Meredith last season!

I hope they make a move for some depth soon. In Capers 3-4 defense Safeties need to be there early in camp to acclimate to the system. We all saw what happened last season when a green Derrick Martin was pressed into service at Cincy.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

August 06, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Out of the 3 players 'sudden' only relates to 1, Martin. We knew Will was coming off a major injury, no shock he's not 100% yet. Last we saw Atari he was on the sideline in 'Zona with 85 asking him WTF his deal was, he has been MIA all offseason, no shock he's not ready.

Aside from Martin, nothing about this predicament is 'sudden'. Kind of predictable actually. Maybe even enough to move up to address the impending 'issue' in the draft?

GBP 4 LIFE

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dilligaff's picture

August 06, 2010 at 12:50 pm

We need to make a trade or attract another veteran safety, if for nothing else depth for the position.

Too much stock has been put into Burnett, the safety position in a 3-4 not only has to play the position, but he is making judgment calls for the defense, kind of like a QB or what the center does for the O-line in the zone blocking scheme. Thats alot of responsibility for a rookie, Mathews just had to play his position, he did not have to run the defense.

People forget what happened last year with the safety position with Rouse, this is a big deal for the Packers. Say what you want about Bigby, when healthy he handled the position well.

THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR THE PACK.

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PackersRS's picture

August 06, 2010 at 12:55 pm

He won't be calling. Capers has prepared Nick Collins to do the whole job this offseason, as opposed as to only call half the field, like he did the past year.

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pitts's picture

August 06, 2010 at 08:39 pm

what about sheilds train him there

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