GREEN BAY—The fall was awkward, and at first the worries were real.
It turned out Bryan Bulaga had “only” fractured his hip, not dislocated it. What happened will allow the right tackle to recover and play again in 2013, provided his rehab continues to go well. What didn’t happen would have been much, much worse.
“Whenever you hear the hip injury, everybody points to the Bo Jackson injury, which I heard multiple times, even from people back home,” Bulaga said shortly after the season ended. “I think my mom asked me three or four times, ‘Did you dislocate your hip?’ Because that’s what the media was projecting that I did.”
The injury occurred on a 12-yard run by Randall Cobb in Week 9 against Arizona at Lambeau Field, with 12 minutes left in the second quarter. Bulaga stumbled as he tried to get in position for a block and appeared to hurt himself as he planted his left leg to try to keep his balance.
He limped off the field holding his left hip and didn’t play another snap in 2012. Multiple evaluations and tests produced some understandable anxiety.
“I was a little bit worried about it before I actually got the results back and saw the specialist, and he kind of settled me down a little bit,” Bulaga said. “Now it’s just letting the bone heal and getting back to full strength.”
Progress on that front is positive at this point. Bulaga said his rehab is starting to “ramp up” through the winter. He still has plenty of long, arduous days in front of him, so he wasn’t going to predict whether or not he’d be on the field during OTAs or minicamp this spring.
The start of training camp in late July will be just short of nine months since the injury, which occurred on Nov. 4.
“If it were up to me, I would do everything (in the offseason), but that’s just the way I operate,” Bulaga said, conceding the medical staff will be making those decisions. “I’m pretty confident that training camp is a good goal to look at.”
Bulaga will probably look forward to training camp more than he ever has. Since taking over as the Packers’ right tackle in Week 5 of his rookie season in 2010, Bulaga had started 38 of 42 games (including playoffs) until getting hurt. The only Packers offensive lineman with more starts in that time frame was right guard Josh Sitton.
Durable in college as well, Bulaga missed only three games from the time he became a starter in the latter half of his freshman season until he left Iowa to enter the draft one year early.
Being a long-term spectator – for two full months in this case – wasn’t fun, especially in a season that began with Mike McCarthy talking about Bulaga’s Pro Bowl potential. Bulaga had bounced back from a rough first half at Seattle in Week 3 and was putting together a solid year.
“It’s been one of the harder things I’ve ever had to deal with,” he said. “I’ve had stints where I’ve been out for a week or two here or there, but to be sidelined for a season and have to watch games has been one of the hardest things, especially when you start to feel a lot better and you don’t have any pain that area. It’s hard. It’s definitely hard.”
That hard part is over, and there’s more hard work to be done.
“You definitely take something away from being out and watching other people play and missing the game,” Bulaga said. “You really do. That’s something I’ll take into my offseason training, a little something extra to keep me moving through it.”