Bryan Bulaga doesn't know if he'll play this Sunday against the Detroit Lions, but the Green Bay Packers' right tackle feels fortunate there's at least a chance.
After missing 23 consecutive regular-season games with a hip injury and torn ACL, Bulaga's prognosis could have been much worse than the sprained MCL he suffered in the second quarter of the team's opener in Seattle two weeks ago.
Like last week, it forced Bulaga into being a limited participant in practice and questionable for Sunday's game. The Packers plan to test him during Saturday's final run-through before making a determination if he'll play against the Lions.
"When it first happened, initially I thought I got charley-horsed or kicked in the thigh," said Bulaga on Friday, his first meeting the media since he suffered the injury.
"So I kind of tried to get back up and wasn't able to. But I didn't think it was going to be anything serious. I certainly didn't feel the same way that I did a year ago. Yeah, I wasn't too nervous about it."
It's been a rough 1½ months for a Packers' offensive line that has already lost utility lineman Don Barclay for the season with a torn ACL and starting center JC Tretter for at least the first eight weeks of the campaign with a impaction fracture.
In Bulaga's mind, the DonJoy knee brace he's been wearing on his surgically reconstructed left knee is what might have saved him this time around. Required during his days at Iowa, Bulaga said he's worn the same one since training camp and plans to continue to do so whenever he returns.
"I'll definitely say that I feel the knee brace helped," Bulaga said. "There's no doubt about it. I mean, I would assume it did. I just in my own head, I think it did."
Bulaga feels he's made a lot of progress with the knee since last week when he determined it just didn't feel right in Saturday's final rendition before Sunday's 31-24 win over the New York Jets.
The key for Bulaga has been getting the swelling out of the knee and getting his quad fired up again. He said most of the pain subsided, which was reflected in his increased mobility during portions of practice open to the media this week.
If he can't go, fourth-year tackle Derek Sherrod would start again in his place. Sherrod started slow against the Jets, but eventually settled in as the Packers kept an extra running back or tight end in the backfield for support.
According to Pro Football Focus, Sherrod allowed a sack and two quarterback hits in 72 snaps.
"I definitely wouldn't put myself out there or wouldn't suggest to put myself out there if I didn't feel 100 percent comfortable," Bulaga said. "It's just how I am. It sounds bad, you don't want to be a liability out there. You've got responsibilities out there for the guy next to you and the guy behind you. So I wouldn't put myself out there if I didn't feel like I was ready to go."
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