Another in a series of posts circling back on the 2012 season and some of our preseason themes:
In 2012, 38 NFL players stayed on the field for 100 percent of their teams' plays. Of that that total, 34 were offensive linemen -- a position where players are rarely rotated or used situationally.
That breakdown generated a unique accomplishment for Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett, who was one of four non-offensive linemen in the NFL to achieve 100 percent participation in 2012. The others were St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinitis and two quarterbacks, the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers, and the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck.
Good fortune has to be considered part of playing 100 percent of a team's snaps rather than 99.7 or 99.2. A torn shoelace or blade of grass in the eye can force a player off the field for a play or two. Some players are given unscheduled rest at the end of a blowout victory or defeat.
And in Burnett's case, it's also worth noting that like offensive linemen, safeties aren't typically rotated. In fact, of the nine defensive players with the top play-time percentages last season, five were safeties.
But let's not allow those qualifiers to diminish Burnett's achievement. At various points in the season, the Packers lost more than a half-dozen defensive starters to injury. Burnett, on the other hand, provided the most basic service imaginable in a team sport: He was available at all times. He has now started 32 consecutive games for the Packers after his rookie season was cut short by a knee injury in 2010.
I'm not sure if Burnett's level of play reached the point the Packers were hoping in training camp, when coach Mike McCarthy said he would "definitely be somebody that they'll be talking about throughout the league." Burnett was the Packers' second-leading tackler (137), according to the team's internal film review, but wasn't the kind of consistent playmaker that generates Pro Bowl buzz.
For the season, Burnett had two interceptions and two sacks. He forced two fumbles and batted away 13 passes. But in what might be an offseason of upheaval for the Packers' defense, you can rest assured that they can rely on at least one of their safety positions.