Bryan Bu­laga ac­ti­vated from PUP list and able to prac­tice

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cause of how ev­ery­thing has shaped up and how I felt and how I’ve re­cov­ered.”

Bu­laga is still wear­ing a heavy brace around his right knee. He ex­pects to con­tinue wear­ing the brace through the sea­son. He wore a brace around his left knee dur­ing his first year back from surgery in 2014, not dis­card­ing it un­til af­ter the sea­son. Bu­laga said he also wore knee braces in col­lege.

Along with the brace, an­other fac­tor help­ing Bu­laga re­turn so soon is which knee the in­jury oc­curred. Bu­laga said a torn ACL in the left knee is more problematic than right. As a right tackle, he ex­plained, each snap he’s push­ing off his left leg.

“You’re drag­ging it through the ground and the grass,” Bu­laga said. “That’s a lot of pres­sure put on that joint. I feel like the right one, you do brace on it a lit­tle bit more when you’re tak­ing on rush­ers, you do sit back on it. Those are all cer­tain things. If you’re go­ing to the left, driv­ing that knee through a de­fender and mak­ing sure that feels strong and get­ting through it.

“It’s just dif­fer­ent, but I felt like the left one, for my po­si­tion, was go­ing to be tough. I was able to deal with it and move on from it and it wasn’t that big of an is­sue.”

Bu­laga no­ticed how lit­tle ex­pec­ta­tion there was for him to re­turn this soon, par­tic­u­larly out­side the team. Per­haps it shouldn’t be a sur­prise. He’s al­ready re­cov­ered from a torn ACL to play at a high level, not miss­ing a prac­tice.

He’s done it again, al­beit in a much shorter win­dow. Bu­laga tore his left ACL in early Au­gust be­fore the 2013 sea­son. His come­back this time has been three months faster, but Bu­laga said he never doubted his abil­ity to re­turn.

“I thought I could knock this re­hab out bet­ter than I did the last time,” Bu­laga said. “There was a lot of chat­ter that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be avail­able un­til the mid­dle of the sea­son, and that’s just a lit­tle bit of fuel. That stokes it. All of those lit­tle tidbits kind of go into it.

“So for my­self per­son­ally, it was just know­ing that I could re­ally knock this re­hab out, do a good job, and get back as early as pos­si­ble.”

Green Bay — The first six weeks af­ter knee surgery, Bryan Bu­laga said, are most cru­cial. When the Green Bay Packers right tackle re­cov­ered from a torn ACL in his left knee dur­ing 2013, the first six weeks were when he bent his knee for the first time, when he first straight­ened his leg, when he walked.

Those first six weeks, Bu­laga said, set the pace for the re­main­der of a re­cov­ery. If it’s dif­fi­cult to per­form the most ba­sic tasks, ev­ery­thing else will take longer. Which is why Bu­laga quickly felt op­ti­mistic last Novem­ber about his re­cov­ery from a torn ACL in his right knee.

Be­cause he didn’t need six weeks to bend and straighten his leg right.

No, Bu­laga said, he was walk­ing in two.

“I feel like right from the get-go,” Bu­laga said, “we were do­ing things from the strength­en­ing stand­point ahead of where I was last time. That was en­cour­ag­ing.”

Bu­laga’s re­cov­ery started on an ac­cel­er­ated pace. It’s con­tin­ued to be much quicker than any­one out­side the Packers could have imag­ined.

Bu­laga cleared his phys­i­cal last week Fri­day, al­low­ing him to be ac­ti­vated from the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form list and prac­tice for the first time three days be­fore the nine-month mark of his in­jury.

So this is why the Packers felt no ur­gency to draft a right tackle with a high­round pick this spring. Bu­laga said he hoped to par­tic­i­pate in or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties this off-sea­son, but Dr. Pat McKen­zie wouldn’t clear him. He never doubted be­ing able to re­turn in camp. Nei­ther did his team­mates. “I think there was some things writ­ten or talked about him maybe not be­ing ready for train­ing camp,” quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers said, “but any­body who’s been in the weight room with him was sur­prised by any of that type of rhetoric. I’m happy to see him out there in his pads. He’s been do­ing a great job with his re­hab and he’s a pro­fes­sional. He’s a pro’s pro. He knows how to play the game. Un­for­tu­nately, he’s sus­tained a cou­ple of tough in­juries. But when he’s out there, he’s a rock.

“The sooner we can get the five we think are go­ing to be the first five kind of start­ing to get a chance to jell to­gether, the bet­ter.”

Bu­laga was limited in prac­tice, only par­tic­i­pat­ing in in­di­vid­ual reps. The eighth-year veteran said he needs to pol­ish the rust af­ter play­ing so long. So Bu­laga ex­pects sev­eral more prac­tices where he can fo­cus on his block­ing tech­nique be­fore tak­ing team reps.

Still, with more than five months un­til the Packers open their sea­son host­ing the Chicago Bears, he’s clearly on track to start Week 1.

“I am very op­ti­mistic about Week 1,” Bu­laga said. “I re­ally am. It was a goal of mine, and ob­vi­ously still is. I still have some work to do to get to it, but it’s def­i­nitely look­ing bet­ter than it did, say, four months ago. Even though I thought I’d still get to that point, it looks bet­ter be-

WM. GLASHEEN / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

Packers of­fen­sive tackle Bryan Bu­laga in­jured his knee in Novem­ber. He ap­pears on track to start the reg­u­lar sea­son.

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