GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Bryan Bulaga's journey to become the Packers' left tackle of the future might include a lengthy layover at left guard.
Packers coaches have been cross-training the rookie at both positions during training camp. And with veteran Chad Clifton still entrenched at tackle, Bulaga could be in the mix to win a starting job at guard.
Bulaga, the 23rd overall draft pick in the April draft, said learning a new position is challenging, but the possibility of getting on the field as a rookie is exciting.
"Like I've said this entire time, none of these guys come here to play behind someone," Bulaga said. "Everyone wants to be on the field and play. That's what makes a team great is guys push each other to get competition. It feels good to have an opportunity to get on the field and win a job, and if I don't, then I wasn't the best guy for the spot."
Bulaga said Thursday that he doesn't yet know how coaches will balance his workload between tackle and guard in Saturday's preseason game at Seattle. For now, he is more concerned with trying to "improve on all the things I did wrong" in the Packers' preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.
"Every game in these preseason games, I kind of have to earn that confidence and gain that comfortable level they need to have putting a guy in the game," Bulaga said. "That's why these preseason games are so important."
"Obviously, we're looking at him long-term as a tackle," Thompson said. "At the same time, we want to try to make sure we get him trained for some other things."
Cross-training offensive linemen at several positions has been common in Green Bay under Mike McCarthy, although the coach acknowledged in April that the team might have taken that too far in the past.
"You have to have the ability to move offensive linemen around," McCarthy said after the draft. "It happens every year, especially when you get down to the 53-(man roster) and when you are getting ready to play games with the 45. With that said, you like to work from developing younger players in one or two positions instead of two or three, like we have had the past couple of years."
Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said allowing Bulaga to compete at guard is consistent with the coaches' philosophy of trying to get as many of their best players on the field as possible.
"This is a win-immediately (league). People want gratification just like a baby does," Philbin said. "Yeah, we're just looking to find that right combination, which we've attempted to do at all times. So we'll have to see how it all shakes out."
Philbin said Bulaga has shown a good understanding of Green Bay's offense so far, with good athleticism and strength. Now he needs to prove that he can play quickly and decisively -- especially at guard.
"Things happen a little faster in there," Philbin said. "So mentally, he's got to process some things. I think there's going to be a little bit of a curve there, obviously, because the new things he's seeing defensively just as a rookie player and positionally as he adjusts inside. He's off to a very good start."
"A lot of people were questioning, maybe not negatively, but uncertain about how he would look after the spring," Rodgers said. "I got a lot of questions from back home about how Bryan was doing, and my comment to them, and I think to you guys at times (was), 'Let's just wait and see what he does in pads.'"
Once hitting began in camp, Bulaga had a better chance to show off his physical style, Rodgers said.
Rodgers said Bulaga has an advantage because he will line up next to left guard Daryn Colledge or center Scott Wells. While Colledge has been criticized for uneven play -- and could even end up losing the starting left guard job to Bulaga -- Rodgers said the fifth-year pro is "maybe our smartest lineman."
Bulaga calls Colledge a "great player," and said their push for playing time will make the entire offensive line better. And even if Bulaga doesn't win a starting job, he figures the experience still will help his development.
"It can help me learn what everyone else on the offensive line's doing if you know the guard position, and an opportunity to get on the field and learn a couple different positions," Bulaga said. "That's always going to help. So yeah, it's exciting."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press