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Packers hope healthy Burnett helps vs Lions

Published On: Oct 04 2013 11:28:37 PM CDT
Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Ask Darren Perry about Calvin Johnson and the Green Bay Packers' safeties coach cuts right to the chase.

"He's pretty doggone good and he can create some problems in a lot of different areas," a smiling Perry said of the standout Lions wide receiver. "So we have to account for him."

Perry said the Packers defense, which has given up a lot of passing yards already this season, will have its hands full against one of the NFL's more prolific passing attacks. He is hopeful the return of safety Morgan Burnett can make a difference Sunday when the Packers host Johnson, quarterback Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Detroit Lions.

Burnett's belated season debut after missing Green Bay's first three games because of a hamstring injury comes just in time. NFC North co-leader Detroit (3-1) is looking to end a 22-game road losing streak against its division rival. The Lions' last win over the Packers (1-2) in Wisconsin was in 1991.

"It's huge," Perry said about having Burnett back on the field. "It gives you a sense of comfort and a sense of excitement because I know he wants to be out there, and that's going to be a big lift for our defense."

Touted by defensive coordinator Dom Capers as the quarterback of the Packers defense, Burnett is eager to go against Johnson, a fellow Georgia Tech product.

"Yeah, it's going to be a fun game," said Burnett, a fourth-year player. "All of the division games are always tough. You know it's going to be a heated rivalry. But that's the NFL. You know it's going to be a good competition out there, and you've got to take advantage of that and use that opportunity to get better as a player."

Not only will Green Bay have its projected starting secondary together for the first time this season, but the Packers defense is almost at full strength following a week off for the bye. Star linebacker Clay Matthews, who dropped out of Green Bay's last game Sept. 22 with a recurring hamstring injury, also is probable for Sunday after practicing the last two days.

"Everything looks good with Clay Matthews," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I fully expect him to play. I have no reason to believe he's not ready to go."

The Lions, who added versatile running back Reggie Bush in the offseason, rank fifth in the NFL with an average of 309 passing yards per game and also are among the league leaders in scoring (30.5 points per game). While McCarthy gave high praise to the Lions as a whole, the primary focus is stopping the receiver dubbed Megatron.

Just in the Lions' last three visits to Green Bay, Johnson has 27 catches for 448 yards and three touchdowns.

"I don't know if you can truly stop him, but you certainly can do some things to try to limit his explosiveness," Perry said. "We'll have our hands full, but our guys are looking forward to the challenge. And just like every week in the National Football League, you've got to be at your best, otherwise you're subject to being embarrassed if you're not."

The Packers have allowed 311 passing yards per game, fifth worst in the 32-team league. Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said the return of Burnett, who received a four-year contract extension from the Packers for nearly $25 million in July, is "a big boost for our defense."

"He brings so much to the defense - covers the field well back there, plays the run well," Williams added. "For him to be back, (it's) definitely a good thing. (It) gives you a sense of comfort, enables you to play the game that you want to play and not think about things."

Notes: Besides Burnett and Matthews, TE Jermichael Finley (concussion), FB John Kuhn (hamstring) and rookie RBs Eddie Lacy (concussion) and Johnathan Franklin (foot) are probable for Sunday's game. . McCarthy continued to be mum after Friday's practice about who would returns kicks in the game. The Packers released WR Jeremy Ross, who had been their primary return man, after he had a costly fumble on a kickoff return in the Week 3 loss at Cincinnati. "It'll be situational," McCarthy said. "We're looking at Johnathan Franklin, (cornerback) Micah Hyde, (receiver) Randall Cobb, so it's a game-plan decision based on when and where."

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