Bulaga Scoffs At 'Short Arms'

First-round pick Bryan Bulaga joked that he's never been in a game and said, ‘Gosh, I wish my arms were longer.' Is there something to all this nonsense about long arms? Packer Report publisher Bill Huber types in his thoughts with his 28-inch arms.

The knock on Bryan Bulaga is he has short arms.

To which, he has the perfect retort.

"I've never been in a situation in a football game where I have thought to myself after a play, ‘Gosh, I wish my arms were longer.' I've never been in that situation," Bulaga, glancing down at his 33 1/4-inch arms, said to laughter at his introductory news conference on Thursday.

"Nor have I been in a situation where I was run-blocking a guy and my hands were too small to fit around his chest plate. I've never been in that situation."

The NFL draft has become notorious for paralysis by overanalysis.

To be certain, numbers mean something. There's a reason why I'm writer and not a professional football player. My 40-yard time — taken during the Jurassic age of sundials and hourglasses — wasn't half bad in college. Too bad that was offset by the vertical jump and broad jump of an elephant. And it's safe to say that nobody ever lost count of my reps on the 225-pound bench press.

It's easy to understand why professional scouts covet arm length in an offensive lineman. And there's probably been a good bit of research that shows offensive tackles with arms of 33 inches or longer are more successful than tackles with arms shorter than that standard.

The longer the blocker's arms, the easier it is for him to keep the defender at bay. Once the defender gets inside the blocker's arms and into his pads, it's easier for the defender to push the blocker into the backfield. And as an offensive tackle, an extra inch or two in arm length can be the difference between a speed rusher getting to the quarterback and the blocker being able to push the rusher past the quarterback.

Numbers, however, only tell part of the story. That's why Maryland's freak of an offensive tackle, Bruce Campbell, went in the fourth round rather than in the upper half of the first round, as the draftniks all gushed after Campbell ran like a linebacker at the Scouting Combine.

The film has to count for something. The scouts got it right in the case of Campbell and Bulaga. Campbell sank like a stone on draft boards when it became apparent why he didn't so much as get an honorable mention on an all-ACC team during his three seasons. On the other hand, Bulaga — the Big Ten's offensive lineman of the year last year — went to the Packers at No. 23 in the first round.

Last season, Bulaga gave up two sacks while facing five defenders who wound up being drafted. Both were against Michigan stud Brandon Graham. That was Bulaga's second game back after a thyroid problem cost him three weeks of games and practices. As Bulaga got back up to full speed, he didn't allow so much as a pressure in his final six games.

Asked about Bulaga's "short arms" after the pick was made, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin pointed out that Chad Clifton's arms were about on par with Bulaga's. Two of the NFL's elite tackles, Joe Thomas and Jake Long, have arm lengths of 32 1/2 inches and 32 7/8 inches, respectively.

Bulaga, who said he was never asked about his arms during pre-draft interviews with teams, obviously had done his research.

"I think there's a lot of speculation that goes into that, the arm length," he said. "From what I know, Joe Thomas' arms I think were not as long as 33 and I think he's doing pretty well for himself, if I'm not correct. He's a pretty good player, and I'm sure there's other tackles in the NFL that are not blessed with having 36-inch arms. So I don't take too much into it. It's about what you do on the field. It's about how you play the game. If you get yourself in a good position, then having short arms won't affect you."

Bulaga and his "short" arms will get their NFL christening starting Friday, when the three day rookie camp opens. It's a day that he's been looking forward to for months.

"It's finally good to be past that stage and getting poked and prodded for short arms or my hands aren't big enough or this or that," Bulaga said. "It's good to be past that stage and actually play football. Like I said earlier, what this whole thing is about is your production on the field and how you play football. So, yeah, I'm excited to be past that and to actually put on a helmet and get out there and play."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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