Bulaga's potential to be a lockdown pass blocker at the all-important left tackle position is why they are paying him about $14.75 million over the next five seasons.
"Whenever you get the pads on, the intensity always rises a little bit," Bulaga said. "OTAs, you're kind of concerned about getting guys dinged up — collarbones with helmets and stuff like that. In pads, everything kind of ramps up a little bit and guys are going after it. It's the first day in pads. You can't help but be excited and want to get after it."
For now, veteran Chad Clifton is entrenched as the starting left tackle. True to what the coaches said, Bulaga is locked in place at left tackle, even though he'd have a chance to win the starting job at left guard. Bulaga called that "helpful" but said he'll do anything to help the team win.
"The approach I'm taking is going 110 percent every snap I get out there and busting my tail and trying to earn a job," he said. "I think that's the mentality every guy has here. I'm not really looking at how far down the road we are here, I'm just taking it one day at a time."
Huge crowd on wet day
The sun didn't exactly shine on a new season.
The rain started on Friday night and, as has been the case here all summer, it just rained and rained and rained. As morning turned into afternoon on Saturday, the prospects of the first day of training camp being moved inside to the Don Hutson Center — and the fans being shut out — looked more and more likely.
Finally, though, the rain stopped. Approximately 4,000 fans filled the bleachers at Ray Nitschke Field, and they gave their Packers a rousing ovation after they finished their stretching and began practice. The sun never came out but training camp began in style. When practice was over, the crowd cheered again.
"We've got to try to please our fans," receiver James Jones said. "They own the team, so we can't just go inside on them."
While a few players slipped and fell — especially defensive backs when receivers made a strong cut — the footing wasn't an issue.
"If you had an opportunity to walk on the field, the field is great," coach Mike McCarthy said. "They had the blowers out earlier when it was lightly raining and there was a mist. I really had zero intention of going inside because the field condition is excellent."
Added veteran tackle Mark Tauscher: "I think you have a huge turnout with fans, I think that's obviously something that goes into it. Football's a game of elements, you have to be able to play in it. Man, if it's not 95 and muggy, we look at it as a win."
Bumps and bruises
As expected, cornerback Al Harris (knee), safety Atari Bigby (ankle) and running backs James Starks (hamstring) did not practice after failing their physicals on Friday. McCarthy said tests are being done on Bigby and he's not expected to practice until next week, at the earliest. It's the same ankle that bothered Bigby throughout the 2008 season and required surgery.
"It bothered me. I managed it, you know?" Bigby said. "It bothered me but I managed it. I definitely don't want it to be a situation where I have to manage it this year. I want to get it resolved."
Linebacker Brad Jones exited after taking a helmet to the back during a punting period. He said there's nothing to worry about — even though he failed his physical and missed the first week of camp last year because of a bad back.
"I just got hit," Jones said. "When there's that many people flying around, you're going to hit with a helmet sooner than later in the wrong place. But I'll be fine, I'll be good. It's nothing to be worried about or anything like that. It's just minor."
There were two punting periods, with each getting 15 reps. Bryan did slightly better, with an unofficial average of 49.1 yards compared to 48.5 for Masthay. While they both battle inconsistency, Masthay had the worst of the day, with a punt that sent the fans in the stands scurrying for safety, and he seems to take forever to unload the ball on occasion compared to Bryan.
McCarthy called the two punting periods part of a larger emphasis on special teams.
"We've gone with a little different format in special teams, as far as working maybe one segment per practice, maybe two," McCarthy said. "We've dedicated more time in our special teams practices. That was clearly evident with a 15-minute period there early as opposed to a 10-minute in the past, which gave the punters more opportunities."
— There were two lighter moments. On one, Blackmon was getting ready to field a punt when cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt tossed his hat in the air and toward the ball while standing just in front of Blackmon. Not surprisingly, Blackmon didn't catch it. Later, a giant brown bird flew over the stands and just over the top of general manager Ted Thompson. The bird tried to hit the brakes but wound up flying into the side of the Hutson Center. It tumbled to the ground, got up, shook off some wooziness and flew away to the cheers of the fans.
— There were no lineup surprises. Morgan Burnett replaced Bigby at safety. Fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse, a star left tackle at TCU who had worked mostly at guard and some at right tackle during the offseason, took reps at left tackle. Jason Spitz, who is back after missing most of this due to a back injury that required surgery, played all three interior spots.
— What two young cornerbacks had monster days? What young receiver struggled? Want more on the punting battle? For Bill's training camp observations or to leave him a question, visit our subscriber's-only Packers Pro Club Forum.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.