Rex Burkhead and special teams.

Those were the two main topics of conversation during Bo Pelini’s Monday news conference leading into this week’s key Big Ten matchup with Michigan.

Pelini said he intends to “proceed cautiously” with Burkhead, the team’s senior running back who injured his knee for the third time this season on Saturday at Northwestern. Pelini said Burkhead felt really good going into the game and didn’t have any issues in practice.

“I don’t really know how it will play out,” Pelini said, “Rex is obviously frustrated. He’s disappointed he’s had to deal with this. It’s been too bad.”

If Burkhead can’t go, Pelini said he feels the Huskers have capable players (like Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross) to play the tailback spot.

As for special teams, Pelini said there will be personnel changes as coaches attempt to cut back on the critical errors. Against Northwestern the Huskers fumbled two punts, lost a big kickoff return because of a holding call and lost a fumble recovery because of a personal foul.

“Our guys understand what needs to be done,” Pelini said. “I promise you this, the guys out there are not trying to drop balls on punts. We just have to execute when the time comes.

“There were a number of issues that popped up in that game. We’re going to have to execute in all three phases to win on Saturday against Michigan. That’s a good football team coming in here.”

Pelini said his team has practiced special teams more this year than last and that the mistakes have impacted field position.

“It makes big difference, you’ve got to drive lot longer field,” Pelini said. “That’s hurt us some.”

Pelini, an Ohio native and former Ohio State player, was asked if he has any lingering hatred for Michigan since he’s experienced the rivalry first hand.

“I don’t go there,” Pelini said with a rueful smile. “I’m just concerned with this football team.”

The Husker Extra team will have much more from Monday’s news conference later on so keep up with the latest developments by staying on huskerextra.com.

Reach Sports Editor Darnell Dickson at ddickson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7320.

Darnell graduated from BYU and covered Cougar football for the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah, before taking over as sports editor of the Journal Star in 2011.