For a player that came on as an undrafted free agent, had one good year, and then missed 12 games the past two years, Atari Bigby seems surprisingly secure in not signing the Packers’ RFA tender offer. He was even willing to lose $54,000, as the Packers have the right to re-work the offer to 110% of his 2009 salary and surely will.
While I have no problem with players trying to get as much money as they can, it seems fairly obvious to everyone except Bigby and his agent Drew Rosenhaus that they have no leverage to seek a long-term deal. But I’m not here to write about that, as the topic has been covered pretty concisely elsewhere. (One good treatise on the subject can be found here: The Game of Atari )
But while Atari stays away from the Packers’ OTAs, Morgan Burnett is getting all the first team reps and his star continues to rise, especially in the eyes of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. McCarthy has made it a point to compliment Burnett in every press conference he’s held since the Packers started their Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
Here are McCarthy’s comments on Burnett:
05/19/10 – He’s done a very good job, number one, in the meetings, communicating. Dom Capers, the way he runs the defense and the method of communication as far as how our meetings are organized, that’s the first step, and the ability to carry it over to the playing field. We’ve seen him in the rookie orientation and now two practices, so I think he’s off to a good start there. But there’s no question you like the size and the athletic ability that he possesses, and I think that’s pretty clear-cut to everybody just watching him move around the last two days
06/02/10 – Been very impressed with Morgan. He’s done a very good job, particularly communicating for a young safety. That’s a very big part of playing the position, the communication, as far as the alignments, the formations and the calls to be made back there. I think he’s off to a good start. I think he’s a very natural football player. He’s done some things on special teams in particular some new techniques that we’re implementing this year. I like what I’ve seen just in the short time he’s been here also on special teams.
06/09/10 – He’s learning, he’s growing. I do like his assertiveness, particularly in his communication skills, and that’s very important at the safety position. Athletically, he’s a young man with a bright future. You can just see the athletic ability, both on special teams and defense. He’s still learning the defense, and he’s doing a good job of that.
6/16/10 – I see Burnett as a very natural, instinctive football player. Things come very easy for him. He’s a good communicator. He’s a very fluid player in space. His athletic ability and the instincts, he picks up coaching very well. That was very evident watching him play the wing position in the punt protection. Just like all of our younger players, the biggest transition from college to professional sport is number one, keeping up with the speed of the game, but really the second part that every NFL player that comes into camp for the first time is to get reps. You’re always fighting for reps, and it’s really helped him.
Now, this is just OTAs, and we’ve all learned our lesson about players who look good in shorts and then shrivel up and die once the pads come on. But four times McCarthy has pointed out Burnett’s communication skills. That’s an aspect that works the same way, whether you’re on the field in shorts or pads or just in the locker room.
For a first year player to gain such praise is rather significant, especially at a position where miscommunication on one play can quickly cost you a touchdown (see Derrick Martin vs. Minnesota).
As McCarthy said, I believe Morgan Burnett is a player with a bright future. I thought so after watching his college game tapes, and I’m willing to predict he will not fall victim to the dreaded “Curse of the OTA Standout.”
It would be a lot to expect Burnett to be a starter in his first season, especially since I don’t expect Bigby to just roll over and concede. At some point, Atari will sign his tender, report to training camp and compete for the starting safety spot. In the meantime, however, we all owe Bigby a big “thank you” for helping to speed up Burnett’s development.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.