When the Green Bay Packers released Chad Clifton in April, their starting left tackle for much of the past 12 years, there was some speculation that Bryan Bulaga could be asked to take over those duties and become the cornerstone left tackle for the next dozen seasons.
Head coach Mike McCarthy put those thoughts to rest after the NFL Draft by saying Bulaga would remain at right tackle, and according to 2010 first-round draft choice himself, that suits him fine.
“I’m happy with where I’m at,” Bulaga told reporters following Wednesday’s organized team activity practice. “I’m comfortable there. I like playing next to (right guard Josh) Sitton, so it works out well.”
Bulaga has played right tackle almost exclusively since entering the NFL as a rookie in 2010. He took over midway through his first season when veteran Mark Tauscher landed on injured reserve, and he’s held down the fort ever since.
The job Bulaga was able to do in the final six games of 2010, the final two games of the regular season and the four playoff games, was a big reason the Packers won the Super Bowl when he was able to keep opposing pass rushers away from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Building off a solid rookie season, Bulaga continued the same trend in 2011, which got him a vote of confidence from the Packers head coach.
When asked following the NFL Draft if the Packers would move Bulaga to left tackle, McCarthy said, “I don’t see any reason to go down that road. I think Bryan is on the verge of being a Pro Bowler at right tackle. I look for him to have that type of season. He looks great. He was here throughout the winter. I don’t think he’s even left Green Bay for a long period of time.”
There’s something to be said about continuity. Certainly, Bulaga seems to be settling in just fine on the right side.
Barring injury or unseen circumstances, Bulaga and Sitton could conceivably hold down the fort on the right side of the offensive line for years to come.
But there’s risk involved in leaving the left tackle spot, Rodgers’ blind side, in the hands of Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod or anyone else on the roster for that matter.
Newhouse played left tackle for the majority of last season in the absence of Clifton who missed 10 games due to hamstring and back injuries. And while Newhouse played well considering he was receiving the first action of his professional career, he gave up too many sacks for comfort.
If Newhouse is able to develop and improve, the Packers could be in good hands. But if he stagnates, the Packers might have to turn to elsewhere.
Sherrod is a question mark after breaking his leg last season, which has relegated him to the sidelines during the offseason program.
Beyond him, other options are rookie seventh rounder Andrew Datko and journeyman Herb Taylor. Neither of those players are the ideal replacement for Clifton, or in the case of Datko, at least not in 2012.
Just in case anything were to happen be it injury or otherwise, Bulaga is ready to play the role of good soldier and fill in where needed. But he said he’s not spending any time worrying about playing left tackle.
“You’ve got to learn all positions: play left tackle, play right tackle, play guard,” said Bulaga. “You have to be ready for anything that happens, injuries happen, so you’ve just got to be ready.”
McCarthy suggested Bulaga is on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl caliber player at right tackle.
Asked whether that’s a goal of his, Bulaga replied, “I just want to win, period.”
If winning means adding another Lombardi Trophy to the cases at 1265 Lombardi Ave., it won’t matter whether Bulaga is at right tackle, left tackle or left field.
That’s all anyone wants in the NFL.