Bulaga could get first start this week vs. Peppers

The Green Bay Packers are preparing for an early-season showdown for first place in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears and they could be forced to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ blind side with a rookie against Julius Peppers.

Starting left tackle Chad Clifton is battling with sore knees and it could be that the Packers (2-0) are forced to turn to first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga against one of the NFL’s most intimidating pass rushers.

Clifton was pulled midway through the second quarter of the Packers’ win over Buffalo and replaced.

“The medical staff has a lot of history with Chad, and when we get him to the point where we feel he’s ready to go, he’ll go,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “He’s our starting left tackle. He’s battling through a rough spot now medically.

“Didn’t look healthy. Chad has been having an issue with his knee, and we need to get him healthy. I thought it was affecting the way he was playing.”

Now, the Packers have to hope if Clifton cannot rebound this week, that he can do so soon. He was signed to a three-year contract extension in the offseason after he finished 2009 healthy. The plan was for a smooth transition to Bulaga one day, not an abrupt switch in Week 2. But Bulaga graded out OK.

“He played well,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “He’s got a long way to go, obviously, but for his first time, I thought he did well.”

Peppers had one sack in the Bears’ opener and knocked Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford out for the foreseeable future. He was quiet in the Bears’ upset victory at Dallas, but will be a force if Bulaga is forced to block him. Stay tuned.

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