Bryan Bulaga Reportedly Tears ACL
Bryan Bulaga’s knee injury has reportedly been confirmed as a torn ACL. The news was first reported by Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
Bulaga injured his right knee and was carted off the field during the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game the training staff appeared to be very concerned about the injury, and those concerns appear to have been borne out in full.
This is the second time Bulaga has torn an ACL with the Packers. The 2010 first round pick previously tore the ACL in his left knee during the Packers Family Night Scrimmage in 2013. At the time he was in the process of switching from right tackle to left tackle, only to give way to David Bakhtiari, who took over the starting job and has only given it up for a handful of games due to injury.
What does this mean for the Packers?
The Packers are somewhat better prepared to handle Bulaga’s injury now than earlier this season. Jason Spriggs returned from the injured reserve list last week after an injury in Week 1, and Justin McCray has shown he’s a capable backup at both guard and tackle. With both players available, the Packers have something on the offensive line they haven’t really had so far this season: options.
Spriggs was shaky in the preseason and McCray has been solid if unspectacular, but the Packers have the luxury now of being able to choose between the two moving forward.
Due to the nature and timing of the injury, it's also possible the Packers could be without Bulaga for the start of next season as well. An ACL injury typically requires about a year to heal, and even a nine month timeline would still put Bulaga out for most of training camp. The Packers will need their two backup tackles to step up both now and in the future.
What does this mean for Bulaga?
Things get a little bit more murky on Bulaga’s side of the equation. Though he’s just 28, he’s now facing his second major knee injury. On top of that, he’s previously had several seasons ended or limited by other lower body injuries, including a hip injury that required surgery during the 2012 season.
Bulaga still has two seasons remaining on a five year, $33.75 million dollar extension he signed in 2015, which would take him through his age 31 season. Currently, there’s no reason to assume the Packers have any plans other than to see him play out the deal.
However, if the Packers did decide to move on, Bulaga could be released after this season and count only $3.2 million against the cap moving forward. Though unlikely, the Packers could decide that a lineman in his late 20s with a history of serious leg injuries just isn’t a good investment. If Spriggs or McCray looks like an answer moving forward, perhaps that consideration could come into play.