Bulaga speaks softly, swings big bat
Then he broke out a big stick Tuesday, ending the Green Bay Packers’ minicamp by winning a home run-hitting contest set up for players as a team-building exercise by coach Mike McCarthy.
If the first-round pick out of Iowa is as good at blocking pass rushers as he is with a baseball bat, Bulaga can look forward to years in the spotlight as the team’s left tackle. For the moment, he just wants to keep his mouth shut and try to fit in.
Asked if a rookie is better off being seen and not heard, Bulaga laughed.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s a fair statement.”
For now, you won’t catch him saying anything brash about putting pressure on veteran Chad Clifton for a starting job. And Bulaga isn’t publicly lobbying to drill exclusively at left tackle in training camp; if the coaches want him to try another position, he says that’s just fine.
Bulaga said he wasn’t comfortable assessing his own performance in the team’s voluntary offseason workouts and this week’s mandatory minicamp, which ended a day early Wednesday as a reward from McCarthy.
The native of Crystal Lake, Ill., even was careful as he talked about how much he enjoyed watching his beloved Chicago Blackhawks—a team he refers to as “us” and “we,” just like regular Wisconsin folks do with their Packers—win the Stanley Cup.
“I’ve gone to Blackhawks games when I was younger and they weren’t doing too well, when you could easily get into a Blackhawks game,” Bulaga said. “You cheer for them. You’re proud of a Chicago team when they do well.”
With veteran-like savvy, Bulaga then tiptoed back from the edge of a slippery slope.
“Except the Bears,” he added with a grin.
Downplaying his Chicago roots is one of several new challenges for Bulaga as he settles in with the Bears’ NFC North rivals.
Bulaga acknowledged that it is strange to face a 3-4 defensive alignment every day after seeing it maybe three times during his entire college career.
“We saw it a little bit,” Bulaga said. “Minnesota showed it to us a little bit, Ohio State has a couple variations of it. But nothing where it’s solely (3-4). It was different getting adjusted to it. Fortunately, the way Iowa blocked it is the way Green Bay blocks it.”
Especially with all the different looks Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers uses.
Immediately after being drafted by the Packers, Bulaga said he would be willing to try other positions but made it clear that he considers himself a left tackle. The Packers are working Bulaga at left tackle behind Clifton in their offseason program, and he doesn’t know if that will change.
“I haven’t heard a word about it,” Bulaga said this week. “I’m just going to play where they put me and try to do my best at it.”
While Bulaga hasn’t yet signed a contract with the team—earlier picks typically must sign first to set the market—he hopes to have a deal done in time to report to training camp July 30.
“My job is to play football,” Bulaga said. “Would I like to be in on time? Absolutely. I’d love to be out working. But there’s a business side to it.”