Bulaga plans to practice in pads Thursday

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Defensive lineman Bryan Bulaga (75) during Green Bay Packers Training Camp at Ray Nitschke Field Aug. 19.

Bryan Bulaga's status for Sunday's game against St. Louis remains uncertain, but the Green Bay Packers right tackle cleared his first hurdle in returning to the practice field Wednesday.

Bulaga returned on a limited basis Wednesday and took in individual drills less than three weeks after injuring his surgically repaired left knee. He's missed the last three games with a sprained MCL and torn meniscus he sustained during an early practice period on Sept. 17.

If everything checks out, Bulaga said he plans to suit up for Thursday's padded practice. While it's no guarantee Bulaga will play this Sunday against the Rams, his return is a promising sign for the sixth-year tackle, who's dealt with a series of knee injuries during his career.

"It's going to be a day-by-day deal," Bulaga said. "I'm just trying to get feedback every day from how it's feeling and watching the tape to see if I like the way I'm moving. I think that's a big key is, if you can get out there and you can feel good and move good but when you watch it on tape, how does it look? Every day is going to be an evaluation."

Bulaga, who was speaking for the first time since the injury occurred, said he tweaked his left knee when his foot caught in the turf and his body fell awkwardly in another direction. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee in 2013 and then sprained his MCL in the 2014 regular-season opener.

His incident last year didn't require surgery and Bulaga missed only one start. He said at the time he thought his Don-Joy knee brace might have helped avoid another catastrophic injury.

Bulaga wasn't sure if it played a role in avoiding a significant injury this time, but he was again sporting it during Wednesday's practice. One thing he is certain about is he doesn't expect needing to knock off too much rust whenever he gets back on the field.

"I didn't miss seven or eight weeks," Bulaga said. "Obviously, any time off is going to set you back a little bit in how you move and seeing things, but I'm lucky to have a guy I'm playing next to, T.J. (Lang), to get me right back on pace and communicate next to and get on the same page every play, so from that standpoint, yes it's challenge just from the speed of the game, but I think (Thursday) is going to be a big help and if all goes well (Thursday) morning and I feel well… I mean, (Thursday) will be a big help, yeah."

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His presence would help stabilize the starting offensive line, but a return in time to play the Rams presents several challenges. St. Louis' defensive line, which consists of five first-round picks, is tied with Green Bay for second in the NFL with 17 sacks this season.

Bulaga's replacement, Don Barclay, allowed three sacks in Sunday's 17-3 win over San Francisco to 49ers outside linebackers Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks. The offensive line also flagged for four penalties (three holding, one false start). Whoever gets the start likely will see a lot of defensive end Chris Long.

"They're a very good front. It's a good team," Bulaga said. "This is the NFL. Anytime you're going to come back you're going to play good pass rushers or good D-linemen or good defense. I'm not really looking at it from that standpoint. It's just getting back into action after three weeks off is a challenge. (Thursday) is a new day and we'll see how that goes."

Left guard Josh Sitton said shortly after Bulaga's injury last month that he wouldn't be surprised if he came back earlier than expected. So you could guess his reaction when his long-time teammate was back on the practice field Wednesday.

"He's that type of guy who's going to bug the crap out of the trainers to get him back as quick as he can," Sitton said. "He's working his (butt) off in there rehabbing, so it doesn't surprise me at all."

Receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones were limited in Wednesday's practice. Cobb has been dealing with a lingering shoulder sprain, while Jones played though a hamstring injury against the 49ers. Afterward, quarterback Aaron Rodgers credited the veteran receiver for how he played through it.

Cobb was a full participant all of last week, but appeared to land hard on his sprained right shoulder near the end of the first half against the 49ers. He returned after one play and said he was fine in the locker room after the game. Still, it sounds like it's something he's prepared to deal with for the foreseeable future.

“What is 100 percent?,” Cobb said. “There’s no such thing as 100 percent in the NFL. You go out there and you play through pain throughout the season. You really don’t start feeling good until once the season is over. There’s really no such thing as 100 percent in the NFL.”

Cornerback Demetri Goodson was also limited after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. Outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Jayrone Elliott were added to the injury report with quadriceps injuries, but both were full participants.

Receiver Davante Adams (sprained ankle), inside linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring) and safety Morgan Burnett (calf) didn't practice. and follow him on Twitter @WesHod

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