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Bulaga Ready For Next Step

He won’t get to put on full pads, or even hit anybody with any authority this weekend during the Green Bay Packers’ rookie orientation. But first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga is pretty excited just to be getting back out onto the field. - More Press Conference Transcript


He won't get to put on full pads, or even hit anybody with any authority this weekend during the Green Bay Packers' rookie orientation. But first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga is pretty excited just to be getting back out onto the field.

Throughout the entire NFL Scouting Combine and pre-draft process, Bulaga had to answer all sorts of questions about the thyroiditis that forced him to miss three games last season at Iowa. He had to listen to critics question whether his arms were long enough or his hands large enough to be a successful left tackle in the NFL.

But after all the extensive scrutiny - which he survived another round of in his first formal meeting with the local media in the Lambeau Field auditorium on Thursday afternoon - Bulaga is more than ready to stick his nose in a playbook and his facemask in somebody else's, beginning Friday with the first of three rookie workouts in the Don Hutson Center.

"I'm excited about that, getting back on the football field and getting rid of the draft process and actually playing some football, which the whole thing is about anyways, playing football," Bulaga said. "So I'm excited about that, installing some of the offense, getting used to the terminology, getting used to the coaches that you're going to be with for quite a while and getting used to everything that's the Packers."

By all accounts, he shouldn't have a hard time fitting in. Growing up in Crystal Lake, Ill., and playing collegiately in Iowa City, Iowa, Bulaga is a small-town Midwesterner through and through. And he felt from the moment he was drafted last week and when he arrived in town on Thursday that Green Bay would be his kind of place.

"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."

Which is partly why Bulaga wanted to assure everyone on Thursday that the thyroid problem is well behind him. It was a freak thing, a cold or flu virus that landed in his thyroid and spiked his hormone levels, leading to an elevated heart rate, a loss of about a dozen pounds off his 315-pound frame, and bouts with fatigue when he'd do anything strenuous.

He missed three games and estimates it wasn't until the Michigan State contest last year - his fourth game back on the field - that he had returned to full strength, and he has felt that way since, all the way through his offseason workouts leading up to the combine and draft.

Coincidentally, during those workouts at Athletes' Performance in Phoenix, Bulaga worked one-on-one with Tom Lovat, the Packers' former offensive line coach from 1992-98 and the father of Green Bay's current strength and conditioning coordinator, Mark Lovat.

{sportsad300}Maybe that was a sign Bulaga was destined to end up in Green Bay, but in any case, he's walking into a good situation where he won't be expected to start right away and he can work behind an accomplished, veteran left tackle in Chad Clifton during his rookie season.

"I hope that he can help me out a little bit, show me the ropes a little bit," Bulaga said. "Obviously he's been through a lot and he's played a lot of good football and he's still playing good football. I'm just hoping that I can learn as much as I can from him and garner all that experience that he can offer, because it's very valuable information. Anything I can learn from him is valuable."

That being said, Bulaga isn't looking at his first season as one to be simply an observer. He knows he'll have to be ready to play should Clifton get hurt, and he knows the sooner he can prove to the coaching staff that he's ready to play, the more it will benefit him down the road.

"I'd like to play left tackle, but obviously there is a lot of work that comes with that," Bulaga said. "You have to earn that position; that is not just given out."

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