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Just the year Packers' Bryan Bulaga needed

12/26/2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Bryan Bulaga needed a season like this.

Nearly two years on injured reserve will do that to an NFL player. For his own psyche as much as anything else, it was imperative that the Green Bay Packers right tackle finish a season.

Despite two brief interruptions -- the Week 1 knee injury that kept him out the next week against the New York Jets and a concussion two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills that did not keep him out the next week -- Bulaga will reach the finish line Sunday when the Packers play the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field for the NFC North title.

"Two years on IR, it's tough," Bulaga said this week. "So to have a have a year like this -- we were just actually talking about it -- everyone stayed relatively healthy, and for me just to have one of these years to go out and play and play well and stay somewhat healthy besides the concussion and a little knee. Besides that, it's been great."

Or maybe he’s just getting started.

"It's been great to be able to contribute and play well and do my job," Bulaga said. "It's been great. It's been fun. Just looking forward to more games."

With everything Bulaga has been through -- from taking over as a rookie starter during the Super Bowl season of 2010 to the 2012 hip injury that ended his season after nine games to his offseason move to left tackle in 2013 that was ruined when he blew out his knee in August of that year to a move back to right tackle this season -- it’s easy to forget the former first-round pick is just 25 years old.

That would seemingly leave him in prime position for a second lucrative contract. The deal Bulaga signed after the Packers drafted him in the first round in 2010 expires in March, and he has no idea whether they want him back next season.

"You know, that's not really something to talk about right now with me," Bulaga said. "It's not really on my mind. I'm just going to go out and play football and enjoy my time here, and at the end of the year, whatever happens, happens. It's out of my hands at that point. That's for my agent and the guys upstairs to figure out."

If the Packers go purely off the tape, there's little reason to think they would not want Bulaga back. He has allowed only three sacks this season, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and two of them came in the Week 6 game at the Miami Dolphins.

But there's the injury history to factor.

The Packers never told Bulaga they wanted to see him get through a season before they talked contract, but that surely would have been a prerequisite.

To that end, Bulaga did just about everything he could to come back strong. He spent most of last season rehabbing his knee at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he keeps an offseason home. It was there that he not only recovered from his knee injury but remade his 6-foot-5, 314-pound body.

"He's heavier than he's ever been; he's stronger," Packers offensive line coach James Campen said. "Remember, he was a young guy coming out of college, so he's grown into his body and he has a clear understanding of the scheme, so he's playing with total confidence. He knows exactly what’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen."