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Bulaga Injury Provides Rationale for Caution

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Bulaga Injury Provides Rationale for Caution

When it comes to protecting the cornerstone of your franchise, it'd be smart that the Packers spare no expense with their offensive line.

That's why the Packers gave right tackle Bryan Bulaga a monster contract in 2015 worth up to $33.7 million dollars, even despite his injury history.

The fact of the matter is, Bulaga's performance—efficient enough to help him ascend up the latter of some of the NFL's best offensive tackles—outweighed the risk of potential injury. Most offensive linemen are warriors, both in the trenches and outside of them, because they're among the positions that deal with the most amount of injuries.

Rolled ankles, cleats planting and refusing to remove themselves from the turf, not to mention offensive linemen on every snap resemble rams butting heads with the defensive opposition, leading to a higher risk of concussions.

That's another story. For now, Bulaga has demonstrated his ability to play through a variety of injuries. He was listed on the Packers' injury report for every single week of the regular season in 2015 after returning from a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain that kept him out of the first four games.

Despite that lingering knee issue coupled with an ankle injury late in the season, Bulaga missed only those four aforementioned games.

Bulaga missed 27 games from 2011 through 2013.

In present day, Bulaga was being issued a limited workload throughout training camp in hopes of reserving him and allowing him to enter the regular season at full health.

On Wednesday, that took a turn for the worst.

According to multiple reporters covering the second-to-last public Packers practice, Bulaga limped off the field with a trainer and into the Don Hutson Center for further evaluation. It would later be revealed that Bulaga suffered an ankle injury, allowing many anxious fans (and teammates) exhale. 

No injury is ideal, but to dodge a serious knee injury in your starting right tackle who previously tore his ACL four seasons prior, the Packers would likely take what they can get.

Last year's sixth-round pick Kyle Murphy filled in at right tackle for Bulaga and swapped duties with second-round pick from the same year in Jason Spriggs. The two replaced Bulaga for the remainder of the two-hour and 38-minute practice.

Spriggs, who is coming off of one of his worst performances against the Redskins last week, is still someone in offensive line coach James Campen's developmental stage. It's far too early to write Spriggs off, but it may very well be too early to throw him into the fire week one against Michael Bennett and the Seahawks.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari knows all too well that at times, there's going to be good days. Just like there's going to be bad days.

The Packers are hoping for more of the former and less of the latter.

"Every tackle goes through it. It could be a practice or a game," Bakhtiari said after practice, beginning to reminisce. "I think I had one of my worst games in Detroit, my rookie year on Thanksgiving. I gave up two sacks and got a holding call. Some days are just not your day, and with him I think it's just being able to forget, learning from your experiences and moving on.

Bakhtiari would go on to become arguably the NFL's top left tackle. He's entering 2017 coming off of his first Pro Bowl appearance and being named as Second-team All-Pro. 

"I'm not really worried about him, he's a physically gifted tackle. Still working with us, coach Campen puts him in the right position. I'm not concerned."

While Spriggs' career is just getting started, the 28-year old Bulaga is well in the midst of his.

His injury—hopefully—isn't expected to be severe or impact his availability for the Packers' season opener, but it does leave some questions along the outskirts of the offensive line.

It may be August, but even as early as it may be, all signs are pointing to the Packers keeping a first-round offensive tackle on their radar come April's draft. Whether for depth purposes or to be groomed as Bulaga's replacement if Spriggs doesn't pan out, it's never too early to think ahead, especially if you're Packers general manager Ted Thompson, whose mastery of this has been well-documented.

Bulaga's contract runs through 2020, but he has a potential out after the 2017 season. That doesn't mean he, or the Packers' tackle depth, will be undergoing any major changes in the coming years. Not with Spriggs and Murphy waiting in the wing and creating formidable depth.

If Bulaga will miss Saturday's third exhibition game against the Broncos, that may impact quarterback Aaron Rodgers' playing time as well, according to ESPN's Jason Wilde. 

The plan was for Rodgers to get a decent workload consisting of a few drives, but nothing more than a half, much like most starters across the league in third preseason games.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (36) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

This may sound harsh but putting "The Franchise" in the hands of Spriggs or to a little lessor degree Murphy if one of the starters goes down is probably the equivalent of thinking MD Jennings and McMillan could hold down the Safety position.

Sorry for the negative vibe guys but I have ZERO confidence in Spriggs and a pinky's worth in Murphy. Throw in the fact T.J. Lang is also gone on the right side of the OL and you have the makings of a disaster waiting to happen. Ankle injuries are tricky as we've all seen more than once in GB. Hopefully 18 days of treatment is enough time to get a 80% healthy Bulaga.

Since '61's picture

Nick, I agree. No need to expose Rodgers unnecessarily. Let Callahan play and get clobbered. He will probably be chucked in 2 weeks anyway. Hill can also play and keep the defense honest with his legs. The defense will probably get plenty of snaps this week and they can use all the work they can get. Top priority, save AR for the season. Thanks, Since '61

RCPackerFan's picture

I have a very similar feeling.

That being said, even though they lost Lang, they replaced him with Evans. I really don't think we will see much of a difference between Lang and Evans.

Some level for optimism is that Murphy has performed well. Also with the OT's you can shade help towards them with the TE's and whatnot. Bennett is a really good blocking TE.

Thats about as optimistic as I can get.

Hopefully we can keep our OL healthy!

croatpackfan's picture

It would be interesting to read your comments about TT and MM few years earlier when they decide to put "The Franchise" in the hands of 4th round rookie, who was already covered by saliva of so many fans spits because of his "short" hands and, oh my God, nobody was paying attention on him before draft.
That season, Aaron was well protected from the left side. There was some issues, but that was rookie. You know about whom I'm talking about. He came into the game as replacement for injured Brian Bulaga.
Why not to give the chance to Murphy. He played well on RT position. He played whole second half against Washington as RT and was one shiny spot of the OL...

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

You may have said said this with hyperbole, but no Packer fan spits at current Packer players. Rodgers was treated with a bit of disrespect in that tumultuous summer of '08, but I dont recall any spit wads from Packer fans hitting him and that was the most polarizing situation the team's players have faced in recent years. Example?

croatpackfan's picture

I was talking about David Bakhtiari. I remeber the size of the panick when Brian torn his ACL. I'm talking about that!

Tundraboy's picture

I agree. Play Murphy. I would be worried if it was Bahk and the temptation was to to play Spriggs. Definitely the game to focus on running.

croatpackfan's picture

You have point here, but the tape is exactly what I'm talking about. We can asume that Kyle Murphy will not be perfect, but: 1. this is RT position, so it is not blind side; 2. Brian Bulaga was not perfect, also, 3. Standford was run first offense, so Kyle Murphy can (and will) help, even improve, in that segment, 4. everythng what we see this pre season tels us that Kyle Murphy improved a lot and he is understand G position well, which will allows him to understand what his teammate on his left shoulder do. Consequently, that will help him to play better...

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Can't blame you at all. Spriggs hasn't exactly done much to instill confidence in anyone. I'd have no issue with limiting Rodgers' snaps on Saturday or just keeping him out completely.

Since '61's picture

Since the Packers are usually very cautious with injuries Bulaga will probably be out for the Denver game. This means that AR's snaps should be limited to two drives especially if they are long drives like we watched in the Washington game. Playing behind Spriggs and/or Murphy is like an injury waiting to happen. Rodgers doesn't need the work anyway. Use Callahan as fodder for the Denver defense, especially if he's going to be chucked in a few weeks. Hill can at least keep the defense honest with his legs. While Rodgers is in surround him with RIP and Kerridge and use 2 TEs to chip at the LOS. Shaping into a good week to work on the ground game. Protect AR for the season. Thanks, Since '61

Nick Perry's picture

"Protect AR for the season."

This sums up week 3 of the preseason beautifully. McCarthy may not be able to do everything he was hoping to do vs Denver before Bulaga's injury, but first and foremost they MUST protect AR.

Please MM, don't let this be one of your "Stubborn Moments" and play Rodgers as much as you would have if Bulaga wasn't injured. While it's admirable you have confidence in all your guys, it's week 3 of the preseason.

I'm all in with Since '62 here. Let Callahan go out there and win a back-up job somewhere in the NFL this week.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I honestly doubt we'll see long drives against Denver's 1st Team defense. They'll shred our 1st team O.

I agree with protecting Rodgers at all costs. Pull him from the fire ASAP, and let the other guys get killed.

Handsback's picture

Murphy isn't the player Bulaga has become, but he can and maybe will be a good player that shows greatness in his play from time to time. (Using MM's nomenclature)
Does anyone remember Tauscher and how he was a huge risk when he started?
Eventually Spriggs will be one of the 5 blocks of granite but until then....lets keep an open mind on Murphy.

RCPackerFan's picture

I'd say lets keep an open mind on most of the young players. There is a reason why they call it draft and develop. Some players take more then a few years to develop.

Hopefully the light will go on with Spriggs and Murphy sooner then later.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Rodgers looks much sharper and better prepared that at this time last season to me. I would say if whoever Bulaga's replacement is looks shaky at all get Rodgers out of there. I just don't trust Von Miller. I think he's dirty. Maybe worse than Suh.

Finwiz's picture

Von Miller is not dirtier than Suh. Suh is at a level all by himself.
Miller is fast and plays through the whistle a lot.

Oppy's picture

I don't think so, is probably the best way I can answer this.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Sorry, but you are wrong. Look at Renaldo's response.

egbertsouse's picture

No, Miller is flat-out good.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

He is very good. He also likes to hit late.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think he's good...and dirty.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Miller was fined at least $47,500 in his rookie season. He was fined $25,000 for a hit on New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in November, weeks after being fined $15,000 for a hit on Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. He was fined for a late hit on Brady. There is the "head butt" and knee to the neck incidents against Indy's Doyle and Allen. He has been penalized 11 times for roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness. Suh has gotten 3. Quinn 4. Demarcus Ware 5 in a long career. No one is all that close to Miller. And they are some real cheap shots.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Thanks for bringing facts!

Savage57's picture

The Packers have had a history over the last several years to go into seasons with pretty significant questions about the ability of starters and absence of depth for various position groups.

Safety, RB, ILB come to mind in recent years. None of those position groups deficiencies, however, could derail a season quite like errors and omissions of a leaky OL might.

Here's hoping it's not an issue for that group this season.

JLab3's picture

My common sense meter is telling me wiith Bulaga sidelined and a Denver defense loaded with talent Rogers shouldn't get anywhere near the field. Why we draft multiple wideouts and running backs when our offensive line seems one injury from collapse is beyond me.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

We invested big in Spriggs but it hasn't panned out thus far.

My only frustration is that Tretter got that huge offer--we could really use him. Terrible loss.

Finwiz's picture

He was a good player, but you can't keep them all.
It's the nature of the business.
And don't forget, he got injured every time he stepped on the field.
It's a pretty big risk for Cleveland, but they're in a position where it hardly matters.

GBPDAN1's picture

I've been posting my view of the backup OT situation in several articles on this site. My fear was losing either of the starting OTs. Losing Bulaga sucks. Lets hope he can play in the opener. At least this isn't as bad as losing Bak. Murphy can get by at RT with extra help against high profile DEs/OLBs. What can't happen is losing Bak. They should only play Rodgers and Bak one series on Saturday, maybe not at all. It's very unfortunate that Spriggs sucks at this point in his career. I really hope he pans out, but im starting to have my doubts. TT better do something like what Seattle did last week when they lost their LT. Except TT needs to not wait until something bad happens. He needs to have a contingency plan and obtain someone better at LT then Spriggs (that's not saying much at this point). If Spriggs has to start, we will lose some games and maybe Rodgers.

Finwiz's picture

>The fact of the matter is, Bulaga's performance—efficient enough to help him ascend up the latter of some of the NFL's best offensive tackles<

Not really sure this is the word you intended here.
I didn't think much of others correcting your composition, but perhaps another line of work .......

Definition of latter
a : belonging to a subsequent time or period : more recent the latter stages of growth
b : of or relating to the end in their latter days
c : recent, present affected by latter calamities

Mojo's picture

What's interesting about the Bulaga injury is now we'll get to see how the Pack view their o-line.

It's unlikely they will keep ARod out of the next game, so while he's in expect them to go with the new number one o-line at every position.

i know they inserted Murphy right after Bulaga's injury, but that was practice. We'll see how they view the backups once the real threat of ARod getting hurt arises.

Don Hutson's picture

Just say 'ladder'. Much easier.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Good point, Mojo, but think Murphy's been the plan for when Bulaga goes down from the beginning this year. Frankly, I feel you need to give him a chance to step-up...That's his job. Regardless of who plays, I expect Aaron to not force the issue right away and mix some quick drop passes to build some confidence in the back-up tackle. If there is an issue, help will be provided with a TE or FB chipping (perhaps double-teaming at times on that side). Still, I have to agree with the majority, I don't like the idea of Aaron being placed in harms way unnecessarily.

My other concern is how long will Bulaga be out? A prolonged recovery could force the Packers to slow down their attack when regular season starts, especially if they have to use a TE to block.

flackcatcher's picture

If Barkley were available MM would start A Rodgers. Don't laugh, Green Bay considers him their top backup on the O line. Rodgers still might play Saturday since it not on his blind side. Besides he need the reps with his WR-TE group. Too be honest, I want to see Murphy and Spriggs with the no 1 O line. I agree with Al on his assessment of Murphy, but he seems still a bit stiff on his lateral movement. In any case, I want to see these guys working in space with the firsts. Might answer some questions we have.

A Pickled Packer's picture

We were hoping this wouldn't happen. Now what? Just tell those new guys if a burly lineman gets by you hold, trip, use a 2x4 if you have to, but don't let them unload on the franchise. Who knows maybe one of those two will stand out.

A Pickled Packer's picture

We were hoping this wouldn't happen. Now what? Just tell those new guys if a burly lineman gets by you hold, trip, use a 2x4 if you have to, but don't let them unload on the franchise. Who knows maybe one of those two will stand out.

Since &#039;61's picture

We could let Hundley start the game and see how the OL /RT holds up for the first series. If Hundley survives put Rodgers in for the second series and go from there. The other approach is to wait for the Denver scrubs to go on the field and then put the first team offense in. If the point is for Rodgers to get some reps what difference does it make who is on the field when Rodgers gets his reps. Just don't get him injured in a pointless preseason game. Thanks, Since '61

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