Packers’ O-line withstands Bulaga injury, for now
By Gary D’Amato, Journal-Sentinel
~GREEN BAY – Evan Dietrich-Smith was running onto the field to line up as an extra tight end in the Green Bay Packers’ Jumbo package Sunday when he passed right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who was on his way to the sideline.
Dietrich-Smith knew immediately what that meant: He wouldn’t be lining up at tight end.
“I ran out there and parked into left guard,” he said. “Next play, let’s go. Know what I mean?”
Bulaga had suffered a hip injury in the second quarter of the Packers’ 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He was not available in the locker room after the game and the severity of his injury was not immediately known.
With Bulaga out, T.J. Lang shifted from left guard to right tackle and Dietrich-Smith took Lang’s place.
“We didn’t miss a beat,” Dietrich-Smith said. “Everyone is like, ‘Let’s go.’ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, here we go,’ like I needed help or anything like that. We just had to go out there and play our game, do what we needed to do up front.”
The Packers rolled up a season high of 176 rushing yards in 39 attempts and allowed just one sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“We’re used to rolling with different combinations of linemen,” right guard Josh Sitton said. “We’ve done it in the past, and we’ve done it successfully. It’s just one of those things you deal with in this league.”
Lang, wearing a brace on a banged-up right elbow, saw action at tackle for the first time this season. He did make one start at right tackle in 2011.
“It’s been awhile since I played out there, but it’s something I’m familiar with,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of snaps out there in the last three years.”
He said it took him a few plays to adjust to the different blocking techniques at tackle.
“Assignment-wise, I felt good there,” he said. “It took a couple snaps to kind of break into the technique a little bit. I think when I was out there I gave up one (quarterback) hit, but other than that, I think I did a nice job adjusting.”
Dietrich-Smith, 26, the only non-drafted rookie to make the Packers’ opening-day roster in 2009, has played in every game this season but mostly on special teams.
“I felt I played good,” he said. “We definitely had some success in the running game. I don’t think we missed a beat when we had to shuffle the lineup. We didn’t diverge from the plan at all. It was pretty much a seamless shift.”
Running backs James Starks (61) and Alex Green (53) combined for 114 yards and a 4.1-yard average. Rodgers added 33 rushing yards and receiver Randall Cobb lined up in the backfield several times and rushed for 29 yards in three carries.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” Rodgers said. “You’ve got to give Evan Dietrich-Smith a lot of credit coming in there at left guard. I’m excited for him. He brings a lot of energy, and he’s been itching to get in there.
“You’ve got to give T.J. credit going from left guard to right tackle. . . . He did a nice job outside. I thought the line blocked really well.”
Dietrich-Smith and Lang said they didn’t have a chance to talk to Bulaga after the game.
“Honestly, we haven’t seen him,” Dietrich-Smith said. “But we know he’s a tough kid. I’m sure we’ll see him back soon.”
“Hopefully, it’s not too severe,” Lang said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t like missing time, so I’m sure he’ll do everything he can do to get ready to go again.”
Until that time comes, the line will look the way it did Sunday.
“It would be nice to………….”
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