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Notebook: Bulaga's Role Becomes More Permanent

Posted Nov 15, 2010

Ever since tackle Mark Tauscher sustained a shoulder injury earlier this season, rookie Bryan Bulaga has viewed his starting role as a week-to-week proposition. That has changed now that the veteran Tauscher has been lost for the year.

Tauscher has played in 134 games with 132 starts during his 11 seasons with the Packers, but his 2010 campaign came to an end last Friday when the team placed him on season-ending injured reserve because of a shoulder injury suffered in Week 4 against Detroit. It is the second time in three years that Tauscher has had his season cut short due to an injury, and he becomes the seventh player who started a game for Green Bay this season to end up on injured reserve.

The starting right-tackle responsibilities will continue to go to Bulaga, who has manned that spot each of the past five games in Tauscher’s absence.

“I don’t think anyone wouldn’t be happy about (starting),” Bulaga said. “Obviously you don’t want to see a guy like ‘Tausch’ go out because of injury. That’s too bad. He’s a great guy and a great player, but I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said that Tauscher made a lot of progress with his shoulder over the past several weeks, even returning to practice on a limited basis with a harness, but that it got to a point where it was in Tauscher’s best interests to have surgery, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

“I don’t think we would have been able to get Mark to the point where he would have been able to play with the harness with the things involved, the way he does play and the fact that it is his right shoulder as opposed to his left shoulder,” McCarthy said. “But he made a lot of progress. You give Mark a ton of credit for trying to play with the injury.”

Even though Tauscher won’t be suiting up again this season, McCarthy emphasized that he will still be a key contributor to the team as he will continue to attend meetings and travel to road games.

“I think ‘Tausch’ has proved that we are a better offensive line, a better team when he is in the locker room, no matter what his role is,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “He is a leadership guy and he is a guy we all look up to. We are glad to have him here no matter what the situation is.”

After injuries and performance issues forced the Packers to use several different combinations along the line in the first half of 2009, the Packers have had only two different starting fronts this season with right tackle being the only spot with any change. That continuity has helped the line allow just 17 sacks in nine games, with nine of those coming in a two-game stretch against Washington and Miami. With the front five lining up the same way for the sixth straight game on Sunday at Minnesota, the hope now is that the line will continue to jell even more down the stretch.

“I think (the same five) helps just from the standpoint of kind of getting on the same page, kind of knowing what is going on,” Bulaga said. “All of these guys have played together for a while so it was me just kind of getting on the same page with them, and I think I have done a good job with that up to this point.”

Next step
Running back James Starks hasn’t played in a football game since January 2009, and after being activated from the physically unable to perform list last week, the rookie is now setting his sights on working his way onto the 45-man gameday roster on Sundays.

Starks was drafted by the Packers in the sixth round this spring out of the University at Buffalo, but has been sidelined all season due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the conditioning test at the beginning of training camp. The Packers had to make a decision on his status last week, with the options being to activate him to the 53-man roster, place him on injured reserve, or release him.

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Starks, who missed his entire senior season at Buffalo due to a shoulder injury, was pleased to get the news that he was activated.

“It was very important just because you get better each day in practice,” Starks said. “If I wasn’t able to practice like I am now, going against the first team, who needs good looks, so out there just practicing every day and getting used to everything, that’s a big plus for me. Just getting in tune with the system and things like that.”

Starks played the role of running back Adrian Peterson in Monday’s practice, wearing the No. 28 of the Vikings Pro Bowl back as a member of the scout team. McCarthy said now that Starks is on the active roster, he has an opportunity during the week to compete for a spot on gameday.

“Every day is an evaluation for me, I think,” Starks said. “Every day I go out there and practice, I just give it my all. Whenever, wherever my name is called upon, I’ll be ready.

“I’m just going to continue to control what I can control. That’s going out and practicing every day and giving it my all. Hopefully they see something in me.”

Welcome back
Tight end Spencer Havner admitted that he was very disappointed when the Packers released him in the final roster cutdown at the end of training camp, but he was equally excited when he got the news that the team was interested in bringing him back.

With a roster spot opening up when Tauscher was placed on injured reserve, the Packers re-signed a player they had plenty of familiarity with in Havner. He played in all 16 games last season for Green Bay and caught four touchdown passes, while adding 20 tackles on special teams.

“I was very disappointed (when released), but I look at it as they did give me an opportunity to play some tight end and get in and play, so I can’t hold too hard of feelings,” Havner said. “In some ways it is probably going to come back, and I ended up here.

“I have good friends here and know the system really well. It’s really nice to come back.”

After being released by Green Bay, Havner was claimed off waivers by Detroit, where he played in five games as a linebacker and on special teams before sustaining a hamstring injury. He was waived/injured by the Lions on Oct. 14 but said the injury is no longer giving him any problems.

“I think (the Packers) just wanted to give me some time to heal up the hammy,” Havner said. “They wanted to make sure that I was ready to play when I came back because we have a lot of injuries here and they didn’t want to pick up another injured guy.”

Injury/participation update
The Packers don't have to put out an official injury report until Wednesday.

Wide receiver Donald Driver (quad), who was sidelined in Green Bay’s last game vs. Dallas in Week 9 due to injury for the first time since 2003, was not at practice on Monday, but McCarthy said it was an excused absence to handle a personal matter. McCarthy did not have an update on Driver’s health status.

McCarthy said cornerback Pat Lee (ankle) and tight end Andrew Quarless (shoulder), who both missed the Dallas game as well, were not “full-go” as of yet, but that Lee practiced on Monday.

McCarthy said linebacker Clay Matthews (shin) was “about the same” as he was before the bye, and that he was hopeful that defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) would be able to return to practice on Thursday.

Pickett originally sustained the injury at Washington in Week 5, but has twice re-aggravated the injury in games, including the most recent contest against Dallas. He said he spent most of the bye week getting treatment on the ankle.

“It’s real frustrating because you want to be out there so bad and help the team, and it’s like you can’t do it,” Pickett said. “Last game I got it rolled up and it was hard to watch the rest of the game. Good thing we had the game pretty much in hand by the time I left, but it was still tough to leave the field.

“It’s a tough injury, but it’s getting better and each week it is getting better. Even though I re-injured it, it heals up faster. It’s coming along. It’s just slower than I want it to be, much slower than I want it to be.”

Additional coverage – Nov. 15

 
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