Daryn Colledge seemed a bit annoyed by the line of questioning following practice Sunday afternoon.
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy had just told the media Colledge would be the starting left guard when the season begins at Philadelphia on Sept. 12. Reporters gathered around his Lambeau Field locker to get his response.
“Awesome, I didn’t know I wasn’t the starter originally,” Colledge said with a peculiar tone in his voice. “I think I played well last season. Played well in the preseason. I’m excited to have another opportunity to start for the Packers.”
Colledge started every game in 2009, including 14 at left guard and two at left tackle because of an ankle injury to Chad Clifton. He started all 16 games in 2008, 14 at left guard. Still, left guard was the most uncertain position along the line when training camp opened July 31.
Mark Tauscher and Clifton were obvious starters at tackle. Scott Wells (center) and Josh Sitton (right guard) also were considered locks at their positions barring an unexpected push from someone else.
Guard T.J. Lang and first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga were the wild cards.
McCarthy said Lang has struggled to take the next step after a productive 2009 because he missed offseason workouts following wrist surgery.
The plan was to work Bulaga strictly at left tackle, but the No. 23 overall pick showed enough by Aug. 9 to open a competition with Colledge. The two split first-team reps and Bulaga continued to take snaps with the No. 2 group at left tackle. But the rookie missed practice last Monday, returned Tuesday, sat out the preseason game against Indianapolis on Thursday and missed Sunday’s workout because of a hip flexor.
“I thought Bryan was improving with his opportunities there, but when you are injured, you are not part of the equation anymore,” McCarthy said.
Bulaga found out about the decision the same way as Colledge — from reporters in the locker room.
“He won the job,” Bulaga said. “Coach made a decision. That’s what it is. Obviously I’m disappointed I’m not the guy, but been nicked up a little bit.
“That’s just the way it goes.”
Colledge has been in this situation before. During the 2008 training camp, Allen Barbe pushed for the job before coaches went with Colledge. He never changed his approach this time around and continued to look at the job as his to lose.
“I think anybody responds to that kind of motivation, but I think the fact is, it’s hard to complain about the way I played left guard last year,” Colledge said. “I don’t think I ever get tired of being challenged. I’d like to be a solidified guy, but that’s up to me. That’s not up to the coaches. If I can go out there and perform every single week, then I don’t have to worry about it.
“That’s football. I expected (competition.) Did I want that? Probably not. I would have rather been the starter from the very beginning. But again, I didn’t give up my starts. I got the reps I needed. … Obviously I did enough to continue to hold my job.”
Colledge’s foray at left tackle in 2009 likely left an unpleasant taste in the mouths of some. He manned the position for three games with Clifton out. The experiment did not go well. Colledge was fully or partially responsible for five sacks in the short period.
“When you’re going back and forth, you’re not as focused on what you’ve been doing and not as confident in what you’ve been doing because you’re bouncing around,” Colledge said. “I get to take the last eight to nine games from last year then take these three preseason games and really get in a groove and play aggressive downhill football.
“That’s what I know I can do.”
Colledge said he’s playing more physical and has developed from being the league since 2006.
As for Bulaga, McCarthy couldn’t say if he would return to practice Monday. Bulaga wanted to play against Indianapolis, but said doctors “strongly recommended” he sit out.
He didn’t know where the decision left him in terms of practice reps, though he will continue to get tackle snaps behind Clifton. Bulaga is considered the left tackle of the future.
“This is the first I know about it, so we’ll see,” Bulaga said. “I’m sure they have a plan and we’ll just take it day by day.
“Whatever position they throw me at, I’ve just got to make the best out of that. Take as many reps as I can at tackle and guard. If I get thrown into both just do my job and just go from there.”