The Green Bay Packers' hand-picked safety draft pick was feeling more and more comfortable in the Dom Capers' complex defense, allowing him to think less and play faster and more aggressively. He recorded his first career interception with a marvelous display of anticipation and ball skills against Buffalo in Week 2.
Then, at some point mysterious in the Week 4 game against Detroit, Burnett tore his ACL. He stayed in the game for awhile but his season was over.
Without him, Charlie Peprah provided a steadying veteran influence as the Packers stunningly won six consecutive games to capture their first Super Bowl championship in 14 years.
We have more from our interview with Morgan Burnett in the Draft Preview edition of Packer Report Magazine.
When training camp begins — whenever that is — Burnett is confident that he'll be back on the field, competing with Peprah for the starting job.
"As of right now, they're telling me I'm ahead of schedule and once we get back into fall, I'll be good to go," Burnett told Packer Report on Friday.
In three-plus games, Burnett finished with 15 tackles (12 solo) with the interception and a pass defensed. In his 12 games replacing Burnett, Peprah finished with 64 tackles (50 solo), two interceptions and seven passes defensed. The starting job was basically handed to Burnett as a rookie, with incumbent starter Atari Bigby out after ankle surgery.
He won't have it so easy this time.
"Really, where would this team be (without Peprah)?" safeties coach Darren Perry said, repeating a question we asked him during the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
Burnett's not concerning himself with that, though. He just wants to be ready for camp to continue an upward trajectory that he said continued even while out of the lineup.
"I'm very happy about (my rookie season) because I learned a lot and I feel like I got better when I was out there," said Burnett, who with Frank Zombo learned how to juggle during their time on the sideline. "At the same time, I've still got a long way to go. I'm really anxious about getting back out there and trying my best to improve."
During the week after the NFC Championship Game, veteran linebacker Nick Barnett complained that the injured players weren't going to be allowed in the team photo. Aaron Rodgers responded that some of those injured players didn't stick around Lambeau to be around their teammates.
One of the injured players who stayed with the team was Burnett.
"Anytime you get to this level, there's so much of the mental part that you can pick up just from seeing things and filing them away and studying offenses and understanding our defense a little bit better," safeties coach Darren Perry said late last season. "Just slows the game down. Morgan's still young – a junior coming out – so the more he's exposed to, the better off he's going to be. It's a tremendous asset to still be part of our daily routine."
A few weeks ago, Burnett, who's looking forward to getting his championship ring but isn't sure if he'll wear it, was honored by the Georgia Legislature and his hometown for being a Super Bowl champion.
"Back in Clayton County, where I went to high school, (state Sen. Valencia Seay) has known me since I was in elementary school because her son was my substitute teacher and he's now a police officer at Georgia Tech," Burnett said. "They honored me and my high school honored me, recognizing somebody that came from Clayton County. It was pretty cool, especially having your hometown really show you love like that and that they're going to support you all the way, no matter what. It feels good to have love from home."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.