Before the end of the first quarter, the Green Bay Packers were already playing without one of their top offensive linemen against the NFC’s best team.
Packers starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga exited Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers with about seven minutes left in the first quarter and was seen entering the locker room after spending time with trainers in the on-field medical tent. Second-year tackle Alex Light replaced him after seeing 90 previous snaps in a limited rotational role this season.
Bulaga was ruled out of Sunday’s game in the second quarter after trainers were examining his right knee, the same knee in which he suffered a season-ending knee injury back in 2017. The former first-round pick also spent time on the injured reserve list in 2012 with a hip injury.
The Packers seemed healthy emerging from their Week 11 bye week but have since seen their offensive line ranks depleted by two members. The team also lost backup Cole Madison earlier this week after he tore his ACL in practice and was later placed on the injured reserve list. He makes the second Packers offensive lineman to be placed on the list this season along with former starting guard Lane Taylor.
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Nothing Good About Timing of Bulaga’s Injury
The Packers losing one of their starting offensive linemen is bad enough for obvious reasons, but the severity of it could seriously impact Bulaga’s future with him due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
Bulaga has served the Packers well since being drafted with the No. 23 overall pick during the 2010 NFL Draft and working his way into a starting role during his rookie season, but the 30-year-old lineman is in his 10th NFL season and would in all likelihood need to take a smaller deal than his current five-year, $33.75 million deal with the Packers.
The Packers might also have some faith in their ability to draft a replacement after their success with Elgton Jenkins taking over for the injured Turner and becoming among the best members of the offensive line. The 2019 second-round pick came into Sunday’s game as the only at his position in the league to not allow a quarterback hit or sack all season.
David Bakhtiari’s Troubles Continue at Bad Time
Packers starting left guard David Bakhtiari committed his sixth holding penalty of the season midway through the second quarter, contributing negatively toward his team eventually facing a 3rd-and-35 situation — though, a defensive penalty saved it from turning into a punt. That makes 11 total penalties called against the veteran this year.
Don’t let the first week of Pro Bowl voting confuse you: Just because the fans love Bakhtiari doesn’t mean he is playing up to the level of his four-year, $48 million contract, which makes him the fifth-highest paid Packers player behind Preston Smith, Davante Adams, Za’Darius Smith and — surprise, surprise — Aaron Rodgers.
The good news for Bakhtiari is he is signed through 2021 and isn’t in risking of a bad season hurting his immediate future, but his continued penalty problems along with some mistakes in his pass and run protection continue to cause problems for a team with deep playoff aspirations.