LT Chad Clifton has gotten off to a slow start in 2010 for the Green Bay Packers, and Mike McCarthy has noticed. He was pulled in the second quarter in favor of rookie 1st round LT Bryan Bulaga. From the post-game press conference:
Chad Cliftondid not practice twice this week. He has an issue with his knee. I felt that he just didn’t look like he was fully recovered, so I thought it was important to get Bryan in there.
Greg Bedard confirmed that the official word was that Bulaga was an injury replacement, but that "Clifton struggled for the second-straight week." I hadn't really noticed him playing that badly, and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said he didn't notice any obvious problems either.
This is at least the second consecutive season that Clifton has gotten off to a slow start due to injuries. He was in-and-out of the lineup during the first 8 games last season. He was beaten by DE Trent Cole on a couple occasions in the 1st quarter against the Eagles, but he was solid the rest of the game. If his knee is bothering him at all, there's no reason to start him.
I'm a believer in Bulaga's future as a starting left tackle. If that future begins in 2010, so be it. If he should start the next couple game, until Clifton's knee feels better, then they can go that route too. From what we've seen so far, do you think Bulaga is actually better than Clifton?
And if this truly is the end of Clifton's career as a starter, well the Packers are prepared for that too. Though he was signed to a 3-year contract last March, the contract was front loaded with a "guaranteed" roster bonus of $6.375 million. What I think that means is that his roster bonus was technically non-guaranteed, but it had to be paid almost immediately to keep him on the roster, so it was effectively guaranteed. As a result, his front loaded contract was a non-guaranteed roster bonus which is counted for entirely in 2010 (in a non-capped year), and I don't expect the Packers would have any future cap problems if he doesn't return in 2011.