Bryan Bulaga’s thyroid issue is ancient history. His dominating play in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech All-American Derrick Morgan was Exhibit A.
Nonetheless, exactly one-third of the 33 questions fired at the Green Bay Packers’ first-round pick during his introductory news conference on Thursday at Lambeau Field involved the thyroiditis that ran its course about seven months ago.
Did the issue stem from getting a tattoo? “That was just an Iowa City rumor.”
What was it like going to class? “Well, is it ever fun going to class?”
Bulaga, who had answered all of these questions again and again at the Scouting Combine and throughout the draft process, handled the queries like the Packers are hoping he’ll handle opposing defensive ends and linebackers for the next 10 or 15 years.
The 6-foot-5, 316-pound Bulaga said he got down to about 302 pounds after the thyroiditis sent his metabolism soaring early last season at Iowa. Not even a couple of before-bed Snickers could stem the weight loss.
Three weeks later, though, Bulaga was back on the field. After a couple of rocky outings against Michigan and Wisconsin, Bulaga hit his stride for the final six games, a stretch that began against Michigan State and ended with his manhandling of Morgan in the bowl game.
“It was terrible, to be honest, because I wasn't able to not just play football, but I wasn't able to lift weights, run, jog, ride a bike,” Bulaga said of his three-week absence. “I kind of had to just walk around and stand and watch practice. I wasn't really able to do anything. Standing around for three weeks isn't fun at all, and as you are standing around for three weeks, you're losing weight, you're getting out of shape. All of the work you have put in from the offseason and the winter up to that point is pretty much gone because this thing is hitting you and it's doing a pretty good job on you. All you have got to do is just stand around and let it happen and wait for it to pass.”
Bill Huber/Packer Report
The problem is ancient history, and Bulaga is looking forward to getting on the field for the Packers’ rookie orientation camp, which runs Friday through Sunday in the Don Hutson Center. Actually playing football will be a welcome change from the workouts and questioning leading up to the draft and the fame he’s acquired since the draft.
“Besides having news reporters in my house from Milwaukee and Green Bay, it's been pretty normal,” Bulaga said of the last week. “It's been a pretty normal week. I've been home with my family, working out at my old high school, and kind of just doing what I normally do. It hasn't been too crazy.”
Bulaga, who grew up a Bears fan while growing up in Northern Illinois, is thrilled to have landed with Chicago’s archrival.
“I like the family atmosphere a smaller community brings,” he said. “Playing at Iowa City, it was a smaller community. The people really cared about the football team, and I feel it's the exact same way here. The fans really care about this organization and the players. I heard from anywhere around town it's a quick five-minute drive to get over to the stadium to work out. You're not on busy highways being stuck in traffic for hours at a time. It's actually, everything's very convenient. My hometown, Crystal Lake, isn't very huge either. It's a smaller town, so everything just relates very well back to where I kind of grew up and where I went to college. It's just an overall good fit.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.