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Bryan Bulaga wants young offensive line to “establish their own identities” in NFL

The former Packer believes the marriage of OL coach James Campen and the Chargers is a perfect one.

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga was one of three members of the Chargers’ who spoke with the media, joining cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton. When I say that Bulaga loves to talk to the media, that still feels like an understatement.

He was slotted for a “hard-out” at 10:30am PT but his answers were so long and well-thought out that he went an extra 20 minutes trying to answer every reporter’s question. If he truly had a workout or prior engagement, he certainly brushed it aside so that everyone got their chance on the mic. That’s the sign of a player who, after so many years in the NFL, still knows where he came from and understands that the little things do really mean the most to fans and the media.

The longtime veteran of the Green Bay Packers is now on the Chargers, where he brings a winning pedigree and plenty of experience blocking for good running backs and protecting a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.

But even after winning the Super Bowl in his rookie season and coming ever-so close to going undefeated the following year, Bulaga admitted he’s almost thankful they lost in the opening round that year to the 8-8 Giants - the eventual Super Bowl champs that year - because of how it humbled him as a player.

The NFL always finds a way to humble you. Always.

Just take a look at the Chargers’ timeline from 2017 to this past season. A good and great season followed up by a fall from grace. Like clockwork.

When it was my turn with the mic, I asked Bulaga what were the first things he wanted to speak to his new teammates about, specifically the offensive line and their group of young tackles. After all, he’s now the oldest among them.

Bulaga told us he really wanted to hammer home to the younger guys that they need to “establish their own identities” at this level. He said everyone wants to strive and be the next Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, or Joe Staley. But he wants them to worry about being the best that “they” can be as a player. The idea is that they spend more time on what they need to get better at as opposed to focusing on a check-list that would make them feel closer in comparison to one of those all-time greats.

When his OL coach James Campen, or “Campy” as Bulaga kept calling him, was brought up, he absolutely gushed about the type of man and coach he was.

The main themes I keep hearing about Campen as a coach is that he 1.) Allows players to be themselves and doesn’t force them into specific techniques and 2.) He will assuredly turn their shortcomings into their strengths.

For a team that’s looking more and more like their going to trot out a youngster at left tackle in 2020, those things should be music to fans’ ears. His coaching style allows his players to have freedom inside of their own path of progression. It’s what makes him a coach that players really want to play for.

At the moment, Bulaga and his wife are still living in Florida, but he said they plan on moving into their new house out west sometime in the coming weeks. When that happens, he’ll get right to work with his new teammates in any way he can.

One of the more comical moments of the press conference was when Bulaga was asked what his thoughts were on the Chargers’ roster prior to him signing with the team in free agency. He didn’t shy away from telling it like it was.

“I knew the type of talent they had because I just got whooped by it a year ago.”

Even after all those years of high-level play out in the midwest, Bulaga hasn’t lost that drive to prove himself each and every time he steps out onto the field. Right now, he knows that his name is written in pen under “right tackle” but he’s determined to earn that spot regardless of how much it’s understandably being handed to him.

It’s a new chapter in Bulaga’s career. He’s experiencing thoughts and emotions he hasn’t had to deal with since he was drafted in the first round by the Packers over a decade ago. But he’s welcoming it all with open arms. He knows the team went 12-4 two years ago and at the same time he acknowledges that they floundered to a 5-11 finish last season. But again, going back to that butt-whooping he received in Costa Mesa last year, he’s well-aware of what this team is capable of when they’re firing on a cylinders, and that’s exactly what he’s setting his sights on heading in 2020.