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Ready for the Packers’ opener? Bryan Bulaga — and Mike McCarthy — say he will be

July 28, 2018

Bulaga

GREEN BAY — No one was surprised when veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga opened the Green Bay Packers’ training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Well, no one except Bulaga, who felt he could have taken part in Thursday’s first practice of training camp but understood why the team’s medical staff opted to take a less-aggressive tack with his comeback from tearing the ACL in his right knee last November.

Nevertheless, Bulaga wasn’t upset with general manager Brian Gutekunst and Dr. Pat McKenzie deciding to play it safe — “I get it,” Bulaga said — and both he and coach Mike McCarthy expressed full confidence that Bulaga will be ready for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

In fact, McCarthy went so far as to say that “I don’t think there’s any threat” of Bulaga or outside linebacker Nick Perry (ankle) not being ready for the opener.

Bulaga was able to do some drill work with an athletic trainer on the side during practice, but he will have to wait to be fully cleared in order to practice.

“I wanted to be ready yesterday,” Bulaga said. “But that’s Brian’s decision and Doc’s decision and they made it and I respect that. I’ve had really good dialogue with (everyone involved) to talk where we’re at with landmarks and goals where I need to be. So, (I’m) just doing everything I can get off the PUP and back at it.”

Asked about facing the Bears, Bulaga said he is “optimistic about it. I felt like everything has gone really well so far. Yeah, I’m disappointed that I started on PUP. It’s been a tough road rehabbing and getting back to this point. But that’s part of the process and I’ve got to keep going.”

McCarthy said that Bulaga looks “great” and that he’s not concerned about limiting his or Perry’s work in camp because of “where they are in their careers. These two guys have played a lot of football. But I know both guys are chomping to get out there in the full mode.”

No deal, no worries

Aaron Rodgers has bigger concerns right now than his much-talked about — but yet to actually happen — contract extension.

“(The team) put me on a twin bed with a little TV in my dorm room, so we’ve got to get that figured out.” Rodgers said with a laugh. “I’ve been in the same room for about eight years. You’d think it’d be the same type of setup.”

As for his contract, Rodgers said he talks with his agent, David Dunn, “daily” and that he’s “really not too worried” about if or when a new deal will get done, given how openly the Packers — from Gutekunst to McCarthy to team president/CEO Mark Murphy — have talked about wanting to reach an agreement.

Rodgers, 34, has two years remaining on the five-year, $110 million extension he signed in April 2013.

“I don’t know if there’s a timetable. The feelings haven’t changed,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, I’d love to be here and I think they’ve spoken at length about wanting to extend my deal. But now that I’m here (for camp) my focus is definitely on other places. It’s on my teammates, my leadership role, my performance on the field. That’s why I have Dave Dunn to take care of all that stuff.”Rodgers wouldn’t say whether he’d tell Dunn to put talks on hold if a deal isn’t completed before the season opener — “We still have plenty of time before that,” he said — and that he never considered holding out the way several other high-profile players have done as their teams opened camp. Atlanta receiver Julio Jones got the Falcons to agree to move some money around in his deal, which has three years left on it, after a brief holdout.

“I don’t really operate like that,” Rodgers said. “I have two years left on my deal. They’re obviously more than willing to talk about an extension. There wasn’t any animosity on either side.”

Clark retirement a ‘surprise’

McCarthy said he didn’t see wide receiver Michael Clark’s decision to retire coming but at least received a heads-up a few weeks ahead of time. Clark, who was a training camp surprise last summer and spent the most of last season on the practice squad before a call-up to the 53-man roster late in the year, was placed on the reserve/did not report list Wednesday.

“It did surprise me,” McCarthy said. “I think Mike was a young, talented football player. Still had a lot of things in front of him. But just like everything in life and in business, there’s a personal side to this. He contacted the organization. It’s been a couple weeks. I talked to Mike, I think it was two weeks ago. …This was more of personal decision and direction he wanted to go with his life.”

As for fifth-round pick Cole Madison, who was also put on the reserve/did not report list, McCarthy said the rookie offensive lineman not reporting to camp “kind of took us by surprise Tuesday and Wednesday. And really I think, in respect to Cole, I’m going to just leave it at that. This is a personal situation and I do not have any timeline for you.”

Matthews gets to work

Veteran linebacker Clay Matthews practiced on a limited basis as he comes back from minor offseason knee surgery and plastic surgery on his nose after taking a line drive off his face during a charity softball game in June.

“Nose feels good. Knee feels good,” Matthews said. “Ready to rock.”

McCarthy said Matthews’ knee is the reason he’s easing into practices, but Matthews did say that he intends to wear a protective visor on his facemask this season to protect his nose.“I would anticipate so. Speaking with the surgeon that operated on it, I guess rhinoplasties normally take several months for them to really feel like you can kind of throw it around and not have a lot of hesitation,” Matthews said. “But, yeah, it feels good. I really don’t have any limitations.”

Extra points

Rodgers said appearance during the Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week,” during which he swam with sharks and actually touched one, was a little scarier than he anticipated. “There’s something about the mild comfort of being on a ship that disappears quickly when you’re under the water and the sound goes away and the expert you thought was over your shoulder ready to help you is holding a GoPro (camera) and you realize it’s just you and an 11-foot wild predator,” Rodgers said. “Luckily I got out.” And what did his teammates think? “I think my profile kind of went up a little bit in the locker room, guys maybe respect me a little more.” … Rodgers took exception – somewhat good-naturedly, somewhat seriously – with a reporter who said he threw an interception to second-year cornerback Kevin King on his first pass of 11-on-11 work. Rodgers believed receiver Randall Cobb came away with the ball. “Go back and look at the tape. Who had the ball in their chest when both guys hit the ground?” Rodgers argued. … Speaking of Cobb, after being spotted earlier in the offseason with an orthopedic boot on his foot, he was full go for practice.

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