GREEN BAY – Last season, Week 2 was the only game the Packers’ starting offensive line was not intact.
It won’t be in this year’s Week 2, either, with right tackle Bryan Bulaga out for Sunday’s game against Seattle with a knee injury. Head Coach Mike McCarthy mentioned Don Barclay and JC Tretter as the candidates to replace Bulaga vs. the Seahawks, but he did not name a starter.
“That’s part of the game. Guys go down with injuries,” center Corey Linsley said on Friday. “Bryan is a heck of a player and we’d love to have him for every game, but it happens, and guys will step up. We have a great group of guys. We all just have to play a little better.”
Bulaga was the only member of the starting unit to miss a game last year, but he only missed the one. It’s unclear if this knee injury will keep him out any longer. McCarthy said the injury is still being evaluated.
“He’s got to be frustrated for sure, but Bryan is a tough dude,” Linsley said. “Bryan’s not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and sulk.
“I talked to him today. He’s a little bit down, obviously, who wouldn’t be. But he’s not in any way, shape or form moping or anything. He’s just working his best to get back.”
Between Barclay and Tretter, Barclay has far more game experience, having started 21 games (including playoffs) at right tackle in the 2012-13 seasons. Barclay lost his 2014 season to a knee injury and struggled in the early portion of last month’s preseason, but his game steadied from there.
His assignment was doubly tough, coming off the long layoff and playing left tackle for the first time in his career, filling in for David Bakhtiari.
“When he first came back, you could tell he wasn’t quite himself,” veteran left guard Josh Sitton said. “He seems to be back to where he was now. He’s all good.”
Same goes for defensive lineman Datone Jones, who is back not only from a preseason knee injury but from a one-game suspension.
Last week, Jones was able to attend meetings and weightlifting sessions but was not allowed to practice or travel with the team to Chicago. He practiced both Wednesday and Thursday this week and is eager to return to the field.
“I’m ready to go,” Jones said. “It’s been a long time coming.
“I’m excited to run out of that tunnel with my teammates. Last Sunday it felt awkward just sitting at home watching the game. I’m back and I’m excited to be a part of this.”
How much Jones plays in his first game back remains to be seen. He deepens the defensive line rotation and has played mostly as a nickel rusher in the past, and at times as a base end.
A 2013 first-round draft pick who was bothered by ankle injuries his first two years, Jones flashed some high-impact play late last season. From Week 16 through the playoffs, he recorded two shared sacks, an interception, a pressure that led to a safety, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal attempt.
“If I had started off the way I ended my season, it would have been a different story,” Jones said. “So for me it’s all about what can I do now? How can I make the team better? How can I make myself better?”
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