Friday, September 16, 2011

Bryan Bulaga at the Freeze and Gabe Carimi at Halas Hall

The Green Bay Packers selected Bryan Bulaga a University of Iowa standout in the 2010 draft. I was jealous. Bulaga is a Crystal Lake, Illinois native (my town and location of my company and I thought it would have been great to have him play for the Bears. You will recall that the Bears needed a lot of help on offensive line last season.

In the summer of 2010, just before training camp, Bryan was hanging out in line at the Freeze ice cream stand in Crystal Lake. The Freeze is one of the landmarks in town. It's a very 50-ish kind of place. Imagine an old McDonalds, remove the arches, cut off the back end--then add crowds, swarming insects waiting for you outside and a parade of cars pulling in and out--that's the Freeze. It's a happening kind of place.

My wife and two youngest daughters were in line at the Freeze. They could see a few people approaching an extra large young man half a dozen people ahead and asking for his autograph. My wife turned to my daughter and half kidding said, go up there and ask him for his autograph. My daughter looked at her incredulously and asked, "Who is he?" The woman in front of my wife in line said, "no fair lady, you have to know who someone is before asking for their autograph." They both laughed and my wife said, I was just kidding, I don't even have anything for him to sign. They continued to watch this good natured giant sign anything he was handed--although most people in line had no idea who he was. When my wife got to the counter, the giant had left. Another patron told her the big guy was Bryan Bulaga.

According to the Packers web site, "Bulaga was drafted as their left tackle for the future, but became the right tackle of the present." Bulaga started the final 12 games of the regular season and rolled right through the post season. He earned Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers Association all-rookie honors.

I think for fans it might be difficult to gage the performance of an offensive lineman. What is visible is a holding call, a missed block that leads to a sack and other negatives. But according to most analysts, Bulaga is coming along just a fine and the Packers are high on him. After all, he's playing for the Super Bowl winner protecting the premiere quarterback. Toward the end of last season in a game against the Bears, he had two holding calls and two false starts. Julius Peppers lined up on his side quite a bit and Julius can make a lot of veterans look bad! According to some, the Bulaga sky was falling. But he had no penalties throughout the playoffs. His own assessment of his first season:

I had ups and downs. I’ll be the first one to say it. But I thought down the stretch I played some really good football, did a lot of good things. It’s hard to say you didn’t have a good year when you walk away with the Super Bowl championship.

As for this season, Coach McCarthy has remarked that Bulaga has shown great improvement. I am not sure if Bryan Bulaga went to the freeze this summer, but I'd be willing to bet that a lot more people recognized him if he did.


The Bears snagged their own monster offensive lineman when they selected Gabe Carimi, the 29th pick in the draft. Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy, which goes to the best interior lineman college football. Carimi studied civil and environmental engineering and was named Academic All-Big Ten for four straight years.

In a recent Sun Times article, former Bears great Jumbo Covert was asked about Carimi:

He’s well-coached. He has the body, the height, the mass, the long arms and athletic ability you look for. He has the tenacity and a little bit of that defensive mentality that you need. He has all the intangibles.

Carimi is the starting right tackle for the Bears.

Although a rookie, Carimi is 23 and actually older than second-year man Bulaga. Bulaga is 22 and last year at 21 was the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl. According to Spotrac, Carimi signed a 4-year $7,056,000 deal that included a $3,631,672 signing bonus. Bulaga signed a 5-year $12,210,000 with $8.76 Million guaranteed. Both Carimi and Bulaga have a lot of upside on their salaries if they become a couple of the best tackles in football. Jake Long of Miami who some consider the best, averages over $10 Million in annual salary.

Bryan Bulaga Card Shown Above

Copyright 2011, Sporting Chance Press

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