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Bryan Bulaga 'grateful' to be another step closer to his goal

DeShone Kizer eager to keep learning from Aaron Rodgers


KANSAS CITY – Every workout, every rehab session and every rep Bryan Bulaga has performed over the last nine months led to this moment.

Stepping into a game setting for first time since tearing his ACL last November against Detroit, Bulaga resumed his post at right tackle during the first two series of the Packers' preseason finale against Kansas City Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

In the days after Bulaga suffered the injury last fall, he made it a goal for himself to be ready for Week 1 of the 2018 regular season. Checking all the boxes he wanted during the first month of training camp, Bulaga made a plan earlier this week with Head Coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen to clear one last hurdle in his return – actual in-game reps.

He passed that checkpoint against the Chiefs, blocking for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer on a nine-play, 65-yard scoring series that culminated in a 31-yard Geronimo Allison touchdown reception.

"We talked earlier in the week about getting some reps. I was on board," Bulaga said. "It was just a matter of getting told they'd like to see some series and I said, 'Sounds good. Let's do it.' I was happy I was able to get that done."

The Packers opened the game with Bulaga and Justin McCray on the right side of the offensive line, while Lane Taylor made his preseason debut at left guard next to Jason Spriggs.

It was the first time Bulaga had a chance to take some in-game reps with McCray, who's slated to start at right guard after filling in admirably for Bulaga at right tackle at during the second half of last season.

While Thursday technically marked Bulaga's return to in-game action, this outcome didn't come as a surprise to McCray or anyone in the offensive line room after watching Bulaga during the rehab process through the spring and summer.

"Even a couple of days after his injury, he's been working hard at it," McCray said. "Honestly, it's been looking like he's ready to be play since we got back from OTAs. That's just a testament to how hard he works and how bad he wants to be out there."

It was a wholly beneficial experience for Bulaga, who was able to test his communication with McCray in a road environment and work his pass-protection technique and run blocking.

Unable to synthesize in-game adjustments and corrections on a practice field, Bulaga enjoyed the chess match of working against another defense other than his own.

It's experience Bulaga will lean on when he runs through the tunnel at Lambeau Field for next Sunday's regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears.

"It's a long journey. There's no doubt about it," Bulaga said. "I'm super excited to have gotten to this point to get myself ready to play in this amount of time. ... The time schedule, probably people were thinking it would be pushing it to get to 10 months and be ready to play. That was my goal from Day 1 to get back for Week 1 and fortunately we were able to hit those targets and goals. I'm excited to get it underway."

Backup plan: The Packers officially moved forward with Kizer as the primary backup to Aaron Rodgers after trading Brett Hundley to the Seattle Seahawks Wednesday.

While the second-year quarterback was caught a bit off-guard when the team was informed of the trade, Kizer understands the nature of the business.

After learning from Hundley on what it's like to spell a two-time MVP quarterback, Kizer is excited about what lies ahead.

"I don't think much changes," Kizer said. "Now it's about adjusting my mindset and doing whatever I can to take as many mental reps as possible to learn from 12."

Kizer played the first two series against Kansas City. After getting intercepted on the first drive of the game, the 22-year-old quarterback bounced back by leading Allison perfectly on the 31-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1.

"That was definitely second reaction," Kizer said. "One good thing within this system is everyone really understands their scramble rules. Obviously when you're dealing with 12 and he extends a lot of plays, that was a prime example of a guy who has been in the system and understands that. Gave us an opportunity to score a touchdown on fourth down."

Kizer, who completed 5-of-7 passes for 57 yards against Kansas City, finished the preseason with 460 passing yards for three touchdowns and one interception (88.2 passer rating).

Ready to roll: After missing the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, Aaron Jones knew he had to make his snaps count during Thursday's finale.

With Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams sitting out against Kansas City, Jones took a majority of the first-half snaps out of the backfield and looked no worse for wear in rushing for 34 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

With Jones set to miss the first two games of the regular season due to a suspension, the coaching staff made it a priority to get the second-year running back enough work Thursday night.

"Coming back in two weeks, it's not like you've been sitting home for a month. You know what to expect," Jones said. "I felt good being back out there. I was glad I got the reps I did. Just get ready for the season. I'm excited about it. I was able to be explosive and it starts with the front line."

King's return: Kevin King has been champing at the bit all month long to see some preseason action and finally got the green light to do so.

After being limited to only practice reps due to a shoulder injury, the second-year cornerback started opposite Davon House on the opening defensive series. He even broke up his first pass on a quick goal-line slant.

King said he didn't realize Thursday was his first game since last November in Pittsburgh until somebody asked him about it earlier in the day.

"I didn't really think about it too much,'" King said. "I feel like it was good for me. I've always wanted to play; the last three games I've wanted to be out there. It definitely felt good under the lights, saw a little different stuff you can't replicate in practice in terms of the adrenaline, the crowd, the lights out there."

Linebacker Nick Perry (foot) and receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) also suited up for the first time this preseason on Thursday night.

Green Bay closed out its preseason at Arrowhead Stadium in a matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs

Whatever happens: Practice-squad holdover Robert Tonyan continued his bid for a place on the 53-man roster with a team-high four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City.

Tonyan is one of several players who will be anxiously waiting by their phones this weekend, but he isn't stressing, especially after enduring a little scare after the Packers signed Jimmy Graham in March.

"They called me when they signed Jimmy and I'm like, 'Oh no. Maybe I'm gone,'" recalled Tonyan, who was wearing No. 80 at the time. "They're like, 'No, we're just going to change (your number) to 85.' I'm like, 'You can change my number to whatever you want. I just want to be on the team.'

"There's a plan upstairs. God has a plan for me. I'm confident in how I played."

Here to play: The Packers wasted no time getting recently acquired inside linebacker Antonio Morrison on the field.

After being traded from Indianapolis earlier in the week, Morrison played the entire first half on defense and took snaps on special teams. He didn't mind getting thrown right in.

"Give me time to learn the playbook and I'm going to do that well," Morrison said. "I believe I have a great football knowledge and I'll be able to pick up those things, and I should be able to help this team."

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