Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga on the mend; receiver Allen Lazard good to go Sunday

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GREEN BAY – As NFC championship week began at 1265 Lombardi Ave. for the Green Bay Packers, head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga is recovering from a 24-hour bug that kept him from playing Sunday against Seattle.

The Packers have been dealing with an illness – or illnesses – for more than a month and last week at least seven players were affected by it to some degree.

And as LaFleur and his coaching and training staff examined how best to get the team ready for their third West Coast trip of the season they will continue to be diligent with managing it.

“That’s just something we’re going to have to deal with,” LaFleur said. “I thought our guys did as good as possible. I was really happy with our athletic training staff, with our doctors, we kept a lot of guys that weren’t feeling well out of the building. So, hopefully, that’s behind us. But we’ll see.”

As for the trip to Santa Clara to take on the San Francisco 49ers, LaFleur said there have been some minor adjustments to the travel schedule but the Packers will depart for California on Saturday as they did before their game Nov. 24. The Packers went 0-2 in California this season, losing 26-11 in Los Angeles to the Chargers and 37-8 to the 49ers.

“I think we’ll look at everything,” LaFleur said. “We’ll certainly look at the plan in all three phases because they got after us in every phase. We adjusted a little bit of the travel but for the most part, it’s going to stay relatively consistent. I’ve talked to a lot of guys in terms of sports science, in terms of how can we have our players prepared, ready to go, from what it’s going to take in terms of their bodies and whatnot. One thing, it is only a two-hour time difference, and just all the studies tell you that if we can keep t as normal as possible for our guys, that gives them the best chance to be at their optimal performance level.”

Good to go

Wide receiver Allen Lazard did all he could to get back into the game in the second half after aggravating an ankle injury.

He ran out of the tunnel and did some sprints along the sideline, but it turned out he would sit the entire second half.

Green Bay Packers' Allen Lazard reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

“Coach LaFleur just wanted to play it safe,” Lazard said. “If we ended up playing a game this week he wanted to make sure I’d be ready for this game.”

Lazard said he tweaked the same ankle that knocked him out of the Detroit game in the season finale but he said it wasn’t something that would keep him out of the NFC championship game in San Francisco.

“The medical staff does a tremendous job,” he said. “They really helped me get back (last time).”

Lazard finished with no catches, breaking an 11-game streak in which he had at least one. Only tight end Jimmy Graham has a longer streak, stretching his to 14 games with three catches for 49 yards against the Seahawks.

Sullivan simmers over officials' ruling

Chandon Sullivan knew he had the football.

The fact wasn’t lost on him after the Packers’ win Sunday. Even then, Sullivan continued thinking about the recovered fumble that wasn’t, a play that could have embarrassed a league whose 2019 season has been marked by shoddy officiating.

The Seahawks’ opening drive should have ended early. Cornerback Jaire Alexander upended Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister, forcing a fumble. Sullivan eventually recovered the football.

“So it was on the ground,” Sullivan said, “I seen it. I tried to grab it. I missed it at first, and then I tried to grab it. And then I cradled it. Nobody else had it. It was me. And everybody is trying to take it, but they couldn’t. So then when they broke the pile, I’m at the bottom giving the ball to the ref.”

The issue wasn’t that the officials missed the call live. Missed calls on bang-bang plays happen. The problem was they didn’t continue the play through the turnover. Any turnover is automatically reviewed, meaning Hollister could have been ruled down after the fact.

Instead, Packers coach Matt LaFleur was forced to use a challenge. Upon further review, it was determined Hollister indeed fumbled, but because there was no clear, immediate recovery, the Packers could not be awarded possession. Even though Sullivan had recovered the fumble.

The Packers, already leading 7-0, would have had possession at Seattle’s 41-yard line. Instead, the Seahawks kept the football. They punted when their drive ended, giving possession back to the Packers at Green Bay’s 11-yard line, a difference of 50 yards in field position.

“They robbed me,” Sullivan said. “That was terrible.”

Rodgers, receivers felt connection

Aaron Rodgers felt like the ball came out of his hands well in Detroit two weeks ago, only the end result was a bevy of overthrows in a 27-for-55 (49%) effort that netted 323 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

He felt the same way Sunday against Seattle, beginning in warmups.

“Where you really feel like you’re locked in and it’s fun when it translates to the field,” he said.

His effort Sunday was one of his best of 2019 but not in his long playoff career. Rodgers went 16-for-27 (59%) for 243 yards and two touchdowns for a 113.7 rating. It was just the fifth time he topped the century mark in rating this season and only his eighth game with multiple touchdown passes.

“I thought he made some clutch throws,” LaFleur said. “Especially, I think a good indication of really good quarterback play is look at third down. That was one of the best performances we’ve had all year on third down. We were (9-for-14) and just clutch throws and his ability to stand in there.”

But his 16 completions tied a season low and his 27 attempts were his fewest of the season. His completion percentage was his fifth worst of the season.

In his 17 career playoff starts, the completions were his fewest, the attempts his second fewest, the yards his sixth fewest. But, his rating was the sixth-best of his playoff career. And on the field, his pass catchers uniformly agreed the quarterback was on point.

“It’s just typical Aaron,” Davante Adams said. “People have down days, not always going to be perfect. I didn’t see anything that was drastically different. He didn’t come in and meditate every day, he did his thing, and he’s Aaron. So at any point, he can blow up and have a game like that. So that’s what we hang our hat on, is being able to just be explosive at any point.”

Rodgers, Lynch trade jerseys

Elgton Jenkins straightened up his entire 6-5 frame to look all the way to the other side of the locker room.

“What’s Marshawn Lynch doin’ in here?”

The Seahawks running back had worked his way into the entrance of the Packers’ locker room, and Rodgers’ locker just happens to be the one on the edge of the oval that leads out. Lynch and Rodgers were college teammates at California in 2004 and the recently unretired running back came in to trade jerseys with the Packers quarterback.

“Marshawn and I became fast friends back in 2004, the only year we got to play together,” Rodgers said. “He is one of my all-time favorite teammates, and I only had to play one year with him.” 

There were rumors in 2010 that the Packers had tried to trade for Lynch, then with the Buffalo Bills. He wound up being traded to Seattle. The two former teammates had an on-field moment in the 2013 preseason finale when Lynch bear-hugged Rodgers and then tickled the quarterback’s mustache.

“He has just an incredible personality and charisma, and he's just so fun to be around,” Rodgers said. “There was an, obviously, conversation years ago about picking him up in a trade that fell through that would've been a lot of fun to play some more years together. But I just have a ton of respect for him in his career. He's one of those transcendent players that is so likable and so respected by so many people, and I'm just fortunate to have gotten to play with him for a year. And so we were just catching up, talking about some silly stuff that happened back in the day, and seeing where he's at. He's a lot of fun to be around, and it's fun to see him.”

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