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Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga & Julius Peppers

September 21, 2010

The Packers square off against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football this week. Both the Packers and the Monsters of the Midway are off to perfect 2-0 starts, and the Bears are out to prove themselves against this year’s popular pick in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers’ defense paved the way for two victories against the Bears last season. However, it’s a new year and there are some new faces on the Chicago Bears’ roster; the biggest change being the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers.

Julius Peppers is extremely talented, but is often criticized for taking plays off. The Bears looked past his faults and bet $91.5 million on Peppers’ ability to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. The 6-foot-7 283 pound defensive end is off to a slow start this season with only one tackle, but that one tackle already changed the course of an entire team. In the first game of the season, Peppers sacked Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford knocking the ball to the ground and knocking Stafford out of the game with a shoulder injury.

If the Packers are to limit the impact of Julius Peppers, they will need to make a decision at the left tackle position. The incumbent is veteran Chad Clifton, who the Packers rewarded with a three-year, $20 million deal this offseason that included $7.5 million in 2010. The rising star is rookie Bryan Bulaga, who the Packers drafted in the first round with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Clifton is the starter, but was pulled in favor of Bulaga during the second quarter of week two’s 34-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The official reason for replacing Clifton was “a coach’s decision with an injury factor,” due to swelling in Clifton’s knee. Bulaga entered the game and played well.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, head coach Mike McCarthy countered the idea that Bulaga replacing Clifton was a permanent move.

“He’s [Clifton] our starting left tackle. He’s battling through a rough spot right now medically. We have Bryan Bulaga getting ready,” McCarthy said.

Due to a Monday night game this week, the Packers do not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday. Playing on Monday rather than Sunday may allow Clifton some extra time to rest, but McCarthy admitted that Clifton may not be at full strength by Monday.

“What is 100%?” McCarthy said. “This is the National Football League. 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. He’s our starting left tackle. He’s battling through a rough spot right now medically.

After watching the first two games of the season, it’s obvious that Chad Clifton is a step slow. Whether it’s injury or age catching up with the 11-year veteran is of little concern to opposing defenses. As the Packers prepare to face Julius Peppers and the Bears defense, they will have to make a decision between a savvy veteran with an injured knee or a fresh-faced rookie potential.

The Packers will be moving players around to help block Peppers on Monday, but either option has to leave Julius Peppers champing at the bit to prove his worth when he takes the stage on national television.

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