GREEN BAY – On Wednesday in the Don Hutson Center, Bryan Bulaga appeared on the stretching line alongside David Bakhtiari, the first time in weeks that the Green Bay Packers had their two starting tackles beginning a practice session together.
That continued Thursday, as Bulaga was able to stack practices on a limited basis.
They were important steps for the 29-year-old Bulaga, who said he left the game against Arizona on Dec. 2 with a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL). He missed the following two weeks of practices and games against Atlanta and Chicago to heal – he said it was important to avoid a more significant tear and having surgery – but there was no doubt that once he was medically cleared he would return to the field.
“It wasn’t enough a thought in my mind after I nicked this knee up against Arizona, I was not going to try to come back and play on it,” he said. “I’m a football player. I come back and play. If you’re able to play, you play. That’s the way I looked at it and that’s the way I always look at it. Regardless of what our record is, none of that matters to me. I want to be out there for my teammates and play.”
The eighth-year pro has dealt with recurring back and knee issues this season, missing parts of several games before being shelved the last two. This after losing 11 games last year to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and large parts of seasons in 2011 (four games), 2012 (seven) and 2015 (four).
“I think it’s been hard to deal with because we’re not winning games,” Bulaga said of managing his injuries this year. “You look at it personally and think – you get nicked up here and there. That happens. That’s part of the gig. It’s more frustrating when you don’t win. I’m not going to sit here and rank years to years. That’s not kind of the way I look at things. It just sucks because we’re not winning football games. Put that all in the equation, that’s the way I’m looking at it. Injury-wise, things happen throughout a season. It’s part of the game, but thankfully none of them have been things I haven’t been able to deal with.”
Bibbs playing catch up
When Aaron Jones was put on injured reserve Tuesday, the Packers claimed fifth-year running back Kapri Bibbs off waivers from Washington to add depth behind Jamal Williams. A dual-threat option in Washington (5.1 yards per rush, 13 catches for 102 yards), Bibbs arrived this week and dove into the playbook. On Wednesday, interim head coach Joe Philbin wasn’t immediately sure if the running back would be able to be part of the active 46-man roster – but then Williams showed up on the injury report with a toe issue.
Williams practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Philbin said he remains a big part of the game plan heading into the game against the New York Jets, but Bibbs is quickly playing catch up.
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“Some of it is just the language barrier,” Philbin said of Bibbs’ transition into the Packers’ offense. “Let’s face it. A lot of teams have five-man protections, six-man protections, seven-man protections. They just may have different ways of calling it. They may have a little different adjustment. It’s one thing to, OK, you understand the base way to do it, but then there might be a half-dozen adjustments within it. So now, within three or four days, you have to reprogram the brain. Oh, that used to be this and I kind of understand the concept, and what are we calling that again? Again, as you know, in our system, these decisions and adjustments might be made like that. That’s the concern, so to speak, is can you get him up to speed quick enough?
“I think part of it is he seems like a bright guy. A part of it is just a little bit of the language barrier and how many repetitions can you give him in practice when you have to get other guys ready as well. It’s all a balancing act, but (running backs coach) Ben Sirmans has done a nice job of meeting with him extra. We’ll see how the week unfolds.
Cobb, Clark remain out of practice
Wide receiver Randall Cobb and backup tackle Jason Spriggs remained out of practice Thursday as they continue to move through the concussion protocol.
Defensive lineman Kenny Clark also remained out of practice as he recovers from a sprain in his left elbow. Cornerback Will Redmond (shoulder) also worked on the rehab side of the field.
Fellow corner and Wisconsin alumnus Natrell Jamerson went down early in practice and favored his right foot after getting tangled up with receiver Jake Kumerow during one-on-one drills. But, Jamerson returned and was not listed on the injury report. Kumerow, however, remains limited with a hand injury.
Punter JK Scott and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick returned to practice after working through illnesses. Tight end Jimmy Graham (knee/thumb) returned on a limited basis.