It isn't as if the Green Bay Packers have another real ...

It isn't as if the Green Bay Packers have another real option at strong safety besides Morgan Burnett.

Atari Bigby probably is headed for the physically-unable-to-perform list after ankle surgery, meaning he must sit out at minimum the first six regular-season games.

Then there's a pair of converted cornerbacks, Derrick Martin and Will Blackmon, followed by career backup Charlie Peprah and free agent Anthony Levine.

Burnett has started alongside Nick Collins every practice since April 30 and, barring injury, he's going to be there Sept. 12 in Philadelphia.

Still, the Packers could hardly be more pleased with Burnett, the third-year junior from Georgia Tech whom general manager Ted Thompson traded up to draft in the third round.

"He's done all the things we've asked him to do," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said at midweek. "You never know when they turn the lights on how guys respond. We're going to have to go basically off how he does in the preseason games to see how ready he is to play."

After not being tested in the intrasquad scrimmage, Burnett will make his exhibition debut Saturday night against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

The coaches have watched Burnett in helmet and shorts during May and June. Now for the last two weeks they've seen him in pads.

"The guy has incredible range," coach Mike McCarthy said.

Burnett hasn't made many interceptions, but other than in the scrimmage he hasn't been in a full-contact situation, either. The Packers won't know if Burnett can make plays on the ball at this level and hold up mentally in the regular season, but they think the odds are in his favor.

What the staff really isn't sure about is just how physical Burnett is going to be because he hasn't tackled anybody. The answers to that question should start to arrive against the Browns.

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