Forgotten flags: Bulaga looks ahead
Yellow flags were flying in Bulaga’s direction during the Packers’ playoff-clinching victory over the Chicago Bears. He committed a pair of false starts and had two holding calls.
With the Packers preparing for Sunday’s playoff game at Philadelphia, Bulaga called the penalties a “fiasco” that was “not acceptable”—but said he doesn’t want to dwell on the negative.
“I’m done talking about the whole penalty deal,” Bulaga said. “Besides that, I thought I played well. Obviously you have a couple technical things here and there, but I thought I did all right. Like I said, I’m done with the penalty deal.”
And while it would be natural to expect a rookie to have some jitters going into his first playoff game, especially when he’s coming off such a shaky performance, Bulaga says he’ll be ready.
Now that he’s adjusted to the NFL’s level of speed and intensity after his college career at Iowa, Bulaga has been told to expect even more in the playoffs.
“Believe me, I’m not going to be shocked when the tempo gets picked up,” Bulaga said. “You’re kind of expecting it. That’s all we’ve been hearing as a young guy, a rookie, that’s what you hear today. The intensity’s going to kick up, the speed’s going to kick up, so you’ve just got to be ready for that when you get out there, just make sure everything’s cranked up and ready to go.”
The Packers presumably would have another option to turn to if they weren’t comfortable with Bulaga’s play, second-year offensive lineman T.J. Lang. But Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave Bulaga a vote of confidence immediately after Sunday’s game.
“Bryan Bulaga will line up and start and play well in Philadelphia,” McCarthy said. “That’s what I expect from him and I guarantee you he will prepare to do that. It was a winning performance for our football team and Bryan will learn from his mistakes.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Bulaga has played “very competitively” all season and his status as a starter isn’t at all in doubt.
“We’re excited about seeing what he’s capable of doing and yeah, he’s certainly going to be our right tackle on Sunday,” Philbin said.
Bulaga was expected to become the Packers’ left tackle of the future when the team took him with the No. 23 overall pick in the first round. But when veteran Mark Tauscher sustained a shoulder injury in October that would ultimately send him to injured reserve, Bulaga switched to the right side and has been the starter there ever since.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Bulaga has adjusted well under the circumstances.
“He’s a guy who’s a natural left tackle, who’s going to be our left tackle for years to come,” Rodgers said. “But because of injuries to Mark, we had to move him over there and he’s done a really nice job adjusting to the footwork and the different scheme being a natural left tackle. But I don’t worry about Bryan, and our coaching staff doesn’t, either—which says a lot about the progress he’s made.”
McCarthy expects good things from Bulaga on Sunday.
“Bryan obviously saw the film, the corrections,” McCarthy said. “He is a young player. It’s playoff time. He fully understands the level of play increases this time of year. He has made progress throughout the season and I’m fully confident that he’ll make progress this week.”