Green Bay Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga just wanted to get through the season opener in Seattle. After missing 23 straight games with injuries, the only thing that mattered — other than a win — was a clean bill of health.
Bulaga missed out on both counts.
The fifth-year veteran couldn't get through the first half against the Seahawks without an injury. An MCL strain forced him out of the next week's home opener against the New York Jets. It wasn't the most graceful transition back to the field. For Bulaga, it seemed the plague of injuries was only continuing.
Bulaga said he never worried about his health, even then. He knew the injury was minor. He would be back before the season's opening month ended. No need to fret.
He was right.
Bulaga has started 11 straight games this season, a stretch that has revived his career. He's resembled the player he was before tearing his ACL in 2012. His stability is one reason quarterback Aaron Rodgers could say this week the offensive line is providing the best pass protection of his career.
In this week's Q&A with Press-Gazette Media, Bulaga talked with Press-Gazette Media about his late-season health, the solid play of Green Bay's offensive line, and the challenge that awaits against a productive Buffalo Bills defensive front.
It's December, and everyone seems to have bumps and bruises time of year. How are you feeling physically?
"I feel pretty good. I think, just the normal soreness that you get from being an offensive lineman in the NFL. For the most part, I feel pretty good. Body feels good. No complaints."
You feel good physically. Mentally and emotionally, to have this kind of health after the injury struggles you've had, how fulfilling has the season been to this point for you?
"Oh, it's awesome. I couldn't ask for anything better than the way things are going this year. Obviously, I had that little hiccup in Seattle, getting rolled into. But that's football. It's part of it. it's been awesome just to stay out there and contribute and help this team win games. It's been awesome."
When you had that hiccup, did you go, 'Oh boy, here we go again?'
"That didn't worry me too much. I knew when it happened, it wasn't anything too serious. It ended up just being a little MCL strain. Like I said, that's part of the game."
You've had the same starting five the past 11 games. How much of a blessing has it been to be this healthy?
"Oh, it's huge. To have the continuity that we've been able to keep together with the guys up front is big. Guys get nicked up, I got nicked up Week 1. Sitty and T.J. both got nicked up in the New Orleans game. For the most part, guys have been able to stay healthy. There's going to be bumps and bruises through an NFL season. That's just the nature of it. for the most part, we've been able to stay healthy. That's big. Playing next to the same guy for so many games, you kind of just build that trust and build that continuity. With that, good things happen."
It's difficult to evaluate the offensive line. Obviously, you see the lack of sacks, and it's clear you guys are playing pretty good up front. When you look at the film, how well has the offensive line been playing?
"I think we're doing a pretty good job. There's always things that need to be cleaned up. There's always things that we can correct and do better. I think we're doing an OK job. To me, it's based off, 'Are we putting points up on the board? Are we running the ball well? Are we giving Aaron enough time to throw the football?' That's kind of the way I look at things. Right now, we're doing an OK job at it, and we can always get better. That's the way I like to look at it."
On paper, Buffalo has had the most productive defensive line in the league, three guys with at least 9.5 sacks. Obviously, stats only tell so much. What have you seen on film from the Bills' defensive line?
"They're a very good front. I don't think the stats lie with what they are as a group. I think they're very, very productive, obviously. They have a lot of smart, good players, especially on the defensive line standpoint. A lot of veteran guys, and just good football players. That's the easiest way to put it. They do a good job of rushing the passer. Obviously, the stats show that."
There are no easy weeks in the NFL, but when is the last time your offensive line has had a challenge like this?
"I think every week is a different challenge. There's different matchups every week that you can say are different than Buffalo. Atlanta was different than New England. Minnesota was different than Buffalo. Every week is different. Every week is a new matchup. You're going against NFL football players, it's a tough game no matter who lines up. They've compiled impressive sack totals over the course of the season. We're going to have to be fundamentally very sound and just play a smart game against them."
For an offensive line that's playing quite well the past few weeks, how much are you looking to measure yourself against the Bills in a matchup of team strengths?
"Yeah, I think this is going to be one of those matchups that we really have to be detailed in our fundamentals and technique in this one. There'll be a lot of time put into film study on it, and just making sure that we're ready to go and we're ready to compete and go out there and try to make sure that our guys has time to get rid of the ball. When we're running it, there's a space for them to run. Big week."
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