GREEN BAY, Wis. – Bryan Bulaga is no doctor, but the Green Bay Packers right tackle knew immediately that the left knee injury he sustained in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks wasn't the same as the torn ACL in the same knee 13 months earlier.
And while no one – not even a doctor – can say for sure whether the brace he wore against the Seahawks saved him from another ACL tear, Bulaga believes that to be the case.
So the DonJoy-brand brace that hung in his locker on Friday will be part of his regular equipment the next time he suits up for a game – whether that is Sunday in Detroit remains in question – and perhaps for the rest of his career.
"I'll definitely say that I feel the knee brace helped," Bulaga said Friday, speaking for the first time since he sprained his MCL against the Seahawks on Sept. 4. "There's no doubt about it. I mean, I would assume it did. I just, in my own head, I think it did."
Unlike in college football, where those knee braces are the norm, most NFL players don't wear them unless they must. Bulaga began wearing the brace at the start of training camp. For a player who has played in just one of the Packers' last 25 regular-season games, every little thing could help.
"When it first happened, initially I thought I got charley-horsed or kicked in the thigh," Bulaga said. "So I kind of tried to get back up and wasn't able to. But I didn't think it was going to be anything serious. I certainly didn't feel the same way that I did a year ago. Yeah, I wasn't too nervous about it."
Bulaga said Friday that he felt much better than he did a week ago, when it was determined that he would not play against the New York Jets. However, he still must prove in practice on Saturday that he's able to function at a high level for an extended period of time before he will get the OK to return against the Lions.
"Mobility-wise, strength-wise, everything has just progressed really well," he said.