Bulaga Returns; Rest of OL in Flux

RT Bryan Bulaga (Scott Boehm/Getty)

Will Bryan Bulaga be healthy enough to start at right tackle? Will Newhouse start at left tackle? How's Josh Sitton feeling? There are plenty of questions revolving around the offensive line heading into Sunday's game against the Rams.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga returned to practice after missing two games, giving the Green Bay Packers a glimmer of good news as they prepare for life without veteran left tackle Chad Clifton for the foreseeable future.

Bulaga was wearing a brace Wednesday on the left knee he injured at Chicago in Week 3, and it's not clear if he'll be able to play Sunday against St. Louis.

''(I) had a chance to watch him a little bit, he was working with a brace, and I think the biggest thing is to watch the tape and see how he feels tomorrow,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ''But he looked like he's moving fine but the progression is to take him limited and see how he is tomorrow.''

The Packers also are resting right guard Josh Sitton after he hurt his ankle, although McCarthy expects Sitton to play Sunday.

"What did the injury report say?" Sitton deadpanned when asked how he was doing. "No, it's just a little sore. No big deal."

So, while Sitton figures to make his 39th consecutive start, McCarthy wasn't about to disclose who will line up at the tackle spots against the Rams.

''I don't want to talk about it,'' he said.

Marshall Newhouse started at right tackle in Bulaga's absence — then switched to left tackle Sunday night at Atlanta after Clifton hurt his hamstring. First-round rookie Derek Sherrod played right tackle after Clifton's injury.

Despite the upheaval, the offense played better as the game went on and the Packers beat the Falcons 25-14 to run their record to 5-0.

Clifton's loss certainly isn't an ideal situation. But the Packers are used to dealing with injuries, showing their resiliency during last year's Super Bowl run.

"If any team can speak on it, it's us," Sitton said. "We know how to go and play next to whoever's out there. It's something that's going to happen. Injuries are part of this league, and you've got to be able to roll with whoever's next to you."

Unlike several other teams around the league who are struggling to find even five good offensive linemen — the struggling division rival Chicago Bears being a primary example — at least the Packers have a few options when it comes to replacing Clifton for the short term.

Aaron Rodgers said that's a testament to Packers general manager Ted Thompson and the front office.

''I don't want to champion all the offensive line picks that we've made here, but I'll tell you what: Bryan Bulaga definitely has worked out, Marshall has worked out, Derek has a good chance to be a real good player,'' Rodgers said. ''I've never doubted Ted and his decision making and his personnel staff and their evaluations. All you've got to do is look at last year, and the kind of the guys we brought in. The majority of them are still in this locker room, and had a big impact in the Super Bowl.''

And yes, it has occurred to Rodgers that the team will have to find a permanent replacement for Clifton at some point.

''It's exciting when you bring in offensive linemen, and you're always hopeful that he's going to pan out to be somebody who can be a long-term stay for you,'' Rodgers said. ''You look at our line, Chad is nearing the end of his career. We need somebody to step in and take his spot.''

To bolster the depth, the Packers signed Ray Dominguez from the practice squad, finally placing safety Nick Collins on injured reserve after he sustained a season-ending neck injury in Week 2. McCarthy said Dominguez is likely to provide depth on the interior while Bulaga, Newhouse and Sherrod rotate at tackle in practice this week.

''I think it's important to rotate all three of those tackles,'' McCarthy said. ''Marshall's played really good football for us the last two weeks. Bryan will come back here, we'll try to get him ready at right tackle and Derek's been playing both.''


Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.

PackerReport.com Recommended Stories