Notebook: Bulaga's Special Trip Home

Bryan Bulaga's first career start could come close to home, though Chad Clifton hasn't been ruled out. Plus, we have the initial injury reports, Mike Neal's comeback and much more from Thursday as Bears Week kicks off.

The door hasn't been closed on Chad Clifton lining up at his customary spot at left tackle when the Green Bay Packers visit Chicago on Monday night.

But if Clifton's achy knees aren't fit enough for the big NFC North clash, then Bryan Bulaga's first NFL start will be extra special.

Bulaga was born in the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill., and played at Marian Central Catholic High in Woodstock, Ill. Bulaga's family remains in nearby Crystal Lake, Ill.

"It'll be exciting," he said after Thursday's practice. "It's kind of where I started my college career was at Soldier Field, when we (Iowa) opened up against (Northern Illinois) my freshman year there. So, it'll be cool to get back there. It's a great atmosphere, it's a Monday night game, divisional game so the crowd's going to be amped up. It's going to be a great atmosphere."

Even as a football player growing up about 45 minutes from Chicago, Bulaga didn't watch any NFL games at Soldier Field. In fact, the first NFL game he ever attended was the Packers' Week 1 game at Philadelphia.

Bulaga got his first playing time on offense during last week's game against Buffalo, when he replaced an ailing Clifton with about 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

"It was great," he said. "It was good experience, good reps out there. Anytime you can get a big win like that, it just makes everything a lot better. So I thought it was helpful. I saw some different things, got to get some live game speed in. It was very helpful."

Most importantly, Bulaga had no problems in pass protection against the Bills. Bulaga was so good that Rodgers didn't even know a change had been made.

"It's probably good for his confidence, because, you know, first extended playing time and he did a nice job," Rodgers said. "To be honest with you, when I re-watched the film on Monday, I didn't realize he actually came in in the second quarter. I thought it wasn't until the second half. He did a nice job for us. So, when you're not thinking about a young guy over there, it's very comforting, and when you watch the film, you see how well he played, that's also comforting."

Coach Mike McCarthy repeated what he said on Monday: Clifton remains the starting left tackle. If he's healthy enough to play, he'll get the start.

"Chad is making progress," McCarthy said. "He went through practice today in a limited fashion, and we'll see how he is (Friday). I'm hopeful that he'll practice either (Friday) or for sure Saturday is the plan going into the week. We'll see how it goes (Friday). Preferably (Friday) over Saturday."

Packers injury report

Is this still a big rivalry? Find out at Fox Sports Wisconsin.

Did not participate: FB Korey Hall (hip), LB Brady Poppinga (knee). Limited participation: LT Chad Clifton (knee), TE Tom Crabtree (arch), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand), LB Brad Jones (knee), DE Mike Neal (side/rib). Full participation: LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), S Derrick Martin (ankle), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), CB Brandon Underwood (shoulder), CB Charles Woodson (toe).

"We went in shells today because the medical report wasn't where it needed to be, so we took a step back and went shells and we'll put the pads on tomorrow," McCarthy said.

Bears injury report

Did not participate: LB Lance Briggs (ankle), LT Chris Williams (hamstring), S Major Wright (hamstring). Limited — DE Israel Idonije (foot), LB Brian Iwuh (quad), LB Nick Roach (hamstring).

Briggs sat for precautionary reasons as he's played with an injury sustained in the preseason. Wright, a third-round pick, is out for a few more weeks. Williams, the starter, hasn't been ruled out.

Neal on comeback trail

Neal, who hadn't missed a game since his freshman season at Purdue, missed the first two games after suffering what he called separated ribs.

"Yeah, it's hard, man, dealing with injuries but I'm definitely anxious to get out there," Neal said. "I couldn't sleep. I was sleeping three hours a night. I'm already not a good sleeper but it's definitely reducing my sleep. The only thing I can picture is me playing football and I couldn't do it. It's pretty hard."

To help heal, Neal has been spending four or five hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber. The instructions say no more than an hour-and-a-half, he said, but he didn't figure a little extra oxygen would be bad for his body.

"I'm playing, there's no doubt in my mind," he said. "There's no question about it. If I'm practicing, I'm playing. That's just how I look at it. I'm going to play football. That's what they pay me to do and that's what I'm going to do. As long as I'm practicing, I'm going to play."

Four-point stance

— Courtesy of, the Packers started the season at 11-1 odds to win the Super Bowl but are now 13-2. If that's not exciting enough, the over/under on Clay Matthews' sacks total is 20. Matthews leads the NFL with six through two games. To get to 20, he'll need to average one per game the rest of the way.

— The Packers are trying to expand new running back Dimitri Nance's menu of plays. He carried twice for 6 yards against Buffalo. "He's going through such a terminology change," McCarthy said. "It's a lot different than what he's been exposed to, just from the digit system. Our words are his numbers and his old numbers are our words and so forth. To do that and also to be able to play the speed of a blitz drill, he's going through an adjustment right now."

— Rodgers' hopes for the running game aren't exactly lofty. "Just them to hold onto the ball. If they do that, then we'll be fine," he said.

— The Bears are coming off a big win at Dallas. Just don't mention it to coach Lovie Smith. "Hey, how long ago was that? What, three weeks, four weeks?" Smith said during a conference call with Packers beat reporters. "It does seem that long. Everything that we're doing right now, that's all in our past. We're thinking about this game. This is enough to keep us occupied. It's a great series, great rivalry game for us, ‘Monday Night Football,' all of that good stuff. NFC North, there's a lot of things riding on it. We just want to be in good health and want the guys to play their best, which I think they'll do."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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