Green Bay rookie safety Morgan Burnett will miss the rest of the season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in the victory over Detroit, leaving the Packers scrambling for a backup.
The third-round pick out of Georgia Tech started the Packers' first four games after veteran Atari Bigby had surgery on his left ankle at the beginning of training camp and began the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Burnett had to grow up fast and was getting better every week before Sunday's injury.
"You could see he was really comfortable," McCarthy said. "For a first-year player, being in a key communicating spot in our defense, I thought he did an exceptional job. He was getting more comfortable and you could see his athletic ability taking over. You feel bad for Morgan."
McCarthy says the team has not yet decided who will take Burnett's place in the starting lineup for Sunday's game at Washington.
Derrick Martin took over for Burnett against the Lions. McCarthy said he played "OK," but a lack of consistent practice time might have hindered his ability to communicate and get in the proper alignment on every play. That may have played a role in the Packers' difficulty stopping the Lions' passing game.
"We need to play better on defense," McCarthy said Monday. "That was not our best performance by far this year."
Other options include Charlie Peprah, who has been inactive for two straight games because of a quadriceps injury; Jarrett Bush, who has played both cornerback and safety but has struggled in coverage at times; and practice squad member Anthony Levine, an undrafted rookie free agent.
Bigby will be eligible to return in two weeks, but it's not clear how soon he will be ready to play.
"We're going to have to really look at how we're going to do it for the next two weeks for sure," McCarthy said. "As far as Atari Bigby, he's been working out, he's been attending the meetings. We won't really know until we see Atari on the field. We haven't had Atari on the field since last year to see exactly where he is."
McCarthy said it wasn't clear when Burnett's injury happened — although it was clear that Burnett kept playing for a while after he was hurt.
"It's remarkable to watch the tape," McCarthy said. "He played 23 snaps in the game. I want to say it probably happened somewhere between probably his ninth and 12th snap in the game. There's no real clear-cut picture when he did it. To watch him play, I think it was at least two full series after that, and also on the punt protection."