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Bryan Bulaga sustained a season-ending knee injury in Monday night’s loss to the Detroit Lions, ensuring the Green Bay Packers’ preferred offensive line will have played together for less than a full game all year.

Bulaga suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ESPN confirmed on Tuesday. NFL Network was first to report that the 28-year-old, eighth-year veteran tore his ACL. That’s what the Packers feared immediately after the game, when coach Mike McCarthy said the team’s medical staff “seemed very concerned about it.”

Speaking Tuesday, McCarthy called it “tough” to hear about the injury.

“Bad news on Bryan Bulaga,” the coach said. “It’s very unfortunate. He will be lost for the season with his knee injury. He’s had a stretch of bad luck this year. It started with the ankle injury there in training camp. I feel bad for him. I thought he had clearly come off his best season last year.”

Monday’s game was just the second time all season that the Packers had all five of their top offensive linemen together. The first time was in Week 6 at Minnesota, but it lasted for only 15 plays before left guard Lane Taylor sustained an ankle injury. The group played together for 42 snaps against the Lions before Bulaga had to be helped off the field and carted to the locker room.

The Packers (4-4) have started seven different offensive line combinations in eight games this season.

Bulaga missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL in his left knee. This injury is believed to be to his right knee.

Earlier this year, Bulaga suffered a sprained right ankle in training camp and missed the first two games of the regular season. He returned for Week 3 but couldn’t make it through that game, either. He returned for Week 5.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari missed four games because of a hamstring injury. Only center Corey Linsley and right guard Jahri Evans have played in every game.

Even Bulaga’s replacement on Monday night, first-year pro Justin McCray, got hurt against the Lions. He rolled an ankle on the final play of the game — a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Williams on an untimed down after a defensive penalty with no time on the clock extended the game.

Last week, the Packers used one of their two injured reserve/designated to return spots on backup tackle Jason Spriggs, who injured his hamstring on a special teams play in Week 1. They’re saving the other for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who could return from his broken collarbone no earlier than Week 15. Spriggs, however, is not eligible to play until after Sunday’s game at Chicago. Another tackle, Kyle Murphy, is on injured reserve after undergoing foot surgery and will not play again this season.

Also Tuesday, safety Morgan Burnett was ruled out of Sunday’s game at Chicago because of the groin injury he suffered last night against the Lions.

“I don’t have a timeline for you,” McCarthy said. “But he will not be available this week against Chicago.”

 

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Maybe the Green Bay Packers’ injury situation isn’t as bad as their injury report looks.

Yes, the Packers had 13 players listed — including both starting offensive tackles and their two veteran receivers — but with right tackle Bryan Bulaga and receiver Jordy Nelson back on the practice field, Sunday’s game against Cincinnati might not be littered with as many backups as the Packers originally feared.

In fact, both Bulaga and Nelson sounded more than mildly optimistic about their chances.

“Today obviously it feels a lot better than it did on Sunday night,” Nelson said after Wednesday’s practice. “Everything’s headed in the right direction.”

Nelson was listed as a full participant in practice. He dropped out of Sunday night’s loss at Atlanta after he took a knee to his right quadriceps on the Packers’ first series. Nelson called his injury a charlie horse. He tried to return against the Falcons. He rode an exercise bike on the sideline and tried to jog but said it swelled significantly and he couldn’t run full speed or stop and start. He had no such problems on Wednesday.

“Feel good — better than what probably I think I and some other people in this building thought I would, so we’re progressing the right way,” Nelson said. “It was great to get back out there and run around, and everything felt good.”

It was the same for Bulaga, who missed the first two games because of his Aug. 23 ankle sprain in practice. Like Nelson, he was a full participant in practice. His return was complicated last week by a bad case of the stomach flu.

“Just didn’t think the ankle was quite there yet,” Bulaga said Wednesday. “From a feeling standpoint, I felt better. I got over the flu or whatever it was, but just wasn’t there. We’re still taking it day by day, going with that approach. Today was a good step and we’ll go at it tomorrow and look at how it does overnight and reassess what we’ve got going on tomorrow.”

Barring setbacks, the Packers should have at least half of their starting tackles and half of their veteran receiving corps on Sunday against the Bengals. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and receiver Randall Cobb (chest) were among eight players who did not practice on Wednesday. The others were: safety Kentrell Brice (groin), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip), cornerback Davon House (quad), linebacker Nick Perry (hand), linebacker Jake Ryan (concussion, hamstring) and tackle Jason Spriggs (hamstring).

The biggest concern among that group is Daniels, whose hip was an issue going into last week’s game. He didn’t make it out of the first quarter. The Packers on Wednesday brought back veteran defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who was released after Week 1, because of how thin they could be without Daniels.

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Sure, there’s a chance the Green Bay Packers might have their regular offensive-tackle combination, a duo they consider to be among the best in the league, for Sunday night’s NFC Championship Game rematch at Atlanta. But there’s also the chance they might have one tackle who before Week 1 had played eight career NFL snaps and another who has never appeared in a game.

At this point, it’s the great unknown after right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who missed the season opener because of a sprained right ankle, went home with the flu each of the past two days; and after David Bakhtiari practiced only on a limited basis this week because of a hamstring injury he sustained when he accidentally did the splits late in Sunday’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Second-year pro Kyle Murphy, he of the eight previous NFL snaps before this season, started in place of Bulaga against the Seahawks. He gave up one sack but otherwise held up OK.

Undrafted rookie Adam Pankey, who was on the practice squad until the Packers added him to the active roster Wednesday, would be the other starting tackle in the worst-case scenario. The Packers promoted him because fellow backup tackle Jason Spriggs sustained a hamstring injury on a special-teams play against the Seahawks and will be out indefinitely.

“It’s still early in the process,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said after Thursday’s practice.

“We’ll just continue to go through the process. As of right now, we have two more days of preparations, so the injury, that part of it will work itself out by the time we get down to Atlanta. But we do have a plan in place. Bryan was out today with an illness, but hopefully getting him back in the building tomorrow and then continuing our preparations for Atlanta.”

Bulaga actually returned to practice last week on a limited basis but was still held out of game action, and the Packers haven’t been able to test his ankle this week because of his illness.

“I don’t really have a feel for Bryan because we haven’t worked him since I think Tuesday, or Monday, on his ankle,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. “So we’ve got to hopefully see where he is tomorrow and, but just speaking with Bryan this morning when he came in, you know, he was dehydrated and things like that. So, we’ll just take the week.”

Bakhtiari managed to finish last Sunday’s game without missing any snaps.