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Chargers RT Bryan Bulaga Talks About His Back Injury, QB Justin Herbert, and More

Chargers right tackle Bryan Bulaga has missed three games due to injury, but he is back and ready to go.

One of the biggest free-agent acquisitions of the offseason for the Chargers was on the right side of their offensive line. They signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a three-year deal to solidify their right side.

Bulaga played all 74 snaps in his first career game as a Charger but only played eight snaps in his second. He went out with a knee injury but was able to get passed it to face the Carolina Panthers in week three. A couple of snaps in, he felt some discomfort. He came out. He tried to go back out there, but he couldn't handle it.

"This is something I've never had before," said Bulaga. "I've never had any back issues. So, when this happened, it was new to me. I've never had rehab and deal with constant back pain or constant spasming or constant lockup, or kind of what I was going through. You know, every week, I, you know, we were pushing and trying and doing things to try to get ready, and it just wasn't there."

The Iowa product said there were times where he was close to coming back. He would be feeling good about making his return, then the next day, he would feel the pain. Bulaga explained that he had had numerous injuries in the past. He suffered two torn ACL's, he has had a hip injury, but this was different.

He tried to push himself through it, but he didn't want to go out there for a couple of snaps and get the feeling that he can't continue just to have someone cold come off the bench. He told himself he wouldn't rush it and would come back when he felt like he could help his team.

Last Sunday against the Denver Broncos was his first game back.

"It's feeling all right," explained Bulaga. "Good days and bad days is the best thing to say. Felt good during the game, feeling my wind was good—obviously, 87 plays and altitude coming back right away. When I saw I was probably ready to go at Denver, I was a little nervous about it, just because of how difficult it is there to breathe. But I felt overall, my legs held up fine."

In his first game back, the offense was able to rush for a season-high 210 yards, something they hadn't been able to do so far in the season. The offense was able to move the ball because their quarterback had time in the pocket to survey the field and make his reads.

This season has been a revolving door on the offensive line, and their coach, James Campen, has done a good job of plugging guys in like last Sunday. Cole Toner had to start at right guard due to injuries on the offensive line. He had a strong game, according to Bulaga and his head coach Anthony Lynn. Campen was with Bulaga, so he is impressed with the backups.

"I think that helps that someone could just slide in and play and do a good job, and there's no issues with communication up and down the line," said Bulaga about all the offensive line movement this season. "This has been just a season where there has been some mixing and matching."

There has been a lot of mixing and matching on the offensive line, but a player who hasn't skipped a beat even with all the movement is rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. Bulaga was there when he came into the game against the Kansas City Chiefs unexpectedly, drove up the field, and scored a four-yard rushing touchdown. He was impressed by Herbert even though he only played the eight snaps of that drive.

Bulaga said he is even more impressed now. He has only played in 28 percent of the snaps that Herbert has been the quarterback, and while he is impressed with the play on the field, he was even more on Sunday against the Broncos.

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"After he threw the pick on the first series, he didn't shy away from anything," Bulaga said. "He went right back at it. Obviously, he doesn't want to throw interceptions, and we don't want to give up sacks, things like that, but that's football that's part of it's part of learning as part of growing. You don't see him get shy once those you know, negative things happen. That's a good sign."

During Wednesday's presser with the right tackle, he kept on calling his quarterback "Herbie," which is a nickname. Bulaga said that is what he calls him because it is "quick and easy." Then Bulaga recalled there was a movie named like that. It is a famous Volkswagen bug with the number 53 on the side that was a hit movie, but that wasn't the version Bulaga was thinking. He was talking about the Disney remake starring Lindsay Lohan called "Herbie: Fully Loaded."

The veteran offensive lineman said he would watch the originals.

"It's on my TV enough," explained Bulaga. "I watch enough Disney every day. I should be able to find it on there."

Bulaga played nine seasons in Green Bay. He is the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl. He won a ring. He is coming from a Packers team that at times seemed to find themselves behind during a game and would make a dramatic comeback. Thanks to the play of their quarterback.

"Obviously, when you have a guy like Aaron Rodgers, he wills a lot of things into reality, things that you may not think is possible, and he does it," explained Bulaga.

Here it is different.

Now during the offensive lineman's absence, the Bolts hit a snag in the road of their season. It has been hard for them to finish games. They have blown 16-point leads in the last four games in a row. They blew a 21-point lead in Bulaga's return on Sunday.

Head coach Anthony Lynn and the team have reiterated that they have to learn how to close out their opponents. They have said that the team needs to develop a killer instinct.

Bulaga feels like the team does well moving the ball up the field and scoring points but says there is always that loll in a game, which he says they need to cut out and go full throttle for four quarters.

"Ourselves upfront when we get in certain situations, especially late in the game, we need to be able to play clean football and get first downs and put up touchdowns," Bulaga explained. "I mean field goals are good, believe me, points are good. But in those types of football games, we need to score touchdowns. Doesn't matter what's happened on the other side of the ball. Doesn't matter what's happened on special teams. It's on us up front, to do our job, run the football, well get first downs, protect well and give Herbie and the guys outside time to do their thing."

He feels a lot better with his back, and the Chargers are happy to have the veteran on the line again. He brings a veteran presence to a young offensive line. The veteran lineman is looking forward to facing the Las Vegas Raiders. He met them last season, and his Packers won 42-24. A divisional game is different, and he understands that, so he is excited to face them as a member of the Chargers.

"They do a lot of good things," explained Bulaga. "I mean, they show a lot of different looks, they fly around, they got good pass rushers. Then inside, they got good run stoppers on the interior side of the D line. And the linebackers are very talented as well. So, it's a big challenge for us."