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A Conversation With: Bryan Bulaga
The right tackle discusses the offseason program, what Corey Linsley adds to this offensive line, his thoughts on Rashawn Slater, and much more.
By Hayley Elwood Jun 29, 2021


This summer, we thought we'd check in with a few Chargers players before training camp and the 2021 season kick into gear.

Our first conversation features right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

Though 2021 is only Bulaga's second season with the Chargers, the team has added many new faces on the offensive line making him the veteran Bolt in the room.

Here's my conversation with Bulaga on the offseason program, his reunion with Corey Linsley, thoughts on Rashawn Slater, and much more.



Year two with the Chargers, and a real offseason! How's it been going for you?

Bryan Bulaga: It's going really well. I think it's been really positive so far. Coach Staley, I think, is gonna be a phenomenal head coach in this league. I think he's changed the energy and kind of the mindset of the team already in the offseason, which has been good. For me personally, having o-line coach Frank Smith, I think he's a very good football coach as well. He's really fun to be around. He teaches the scheme well, he's able to adapt to systems that guys have been in and what they've done and kind of convert it to the new scheme that we're going to be going with. It's been really good so far.

Frank Smith, in his presser, mentioned four Cs: "clear, consistent, concise communication." How does that philosophy benefit this offensive line?

Bulaga: First things first, with us up front, it's all about communication. I think when you can have good communication in the offensive line room, that's only gonna help the group perform better on Sundays. Obviously, throughout a game week or throughout training camp or what we've been in right now, especially with the new scheme, we're installing things and seeing it for the first time, so being on the field with it for the first time, there's gonna be a lot of questions. There's gonna be things that we don't have the answers to right now because this is new to all the guys, but having a coach who's able to communicate those things and be clear about what we need to do and make sure there's no gray area is great.

One of the new guys on this offensive line is a familiar face for you in Corey Linsley. He said you played a really big part in him coming out here. I joked with him, how good of a salesman are you?!

Bulaga: *laughs* Corey didn't need me to sell him! To me, he's been one of the best centers in the league for at least the last three or four years. I played with him for quite a long time. When I knew he was probably going to hit the market, I definitely kind of picked his brain a bit. When it's the offseason, we don't talk about football too much but this one we did and I was just trying to see where he was at. Where were places he'd be interested in? Turns out the Chargers were looking for a center! I was able to kind of communicate with him, especially with new coaches, who I wasn't overly familiar with, but when Brandon (Staley) was hired, I had spoken to Brandon and then spoken to Frank, so I was able to give Corey some insight as to what to expect and what kind of the overall feel and vibe was for the new coaches. Obviously at the end of the day, he makes his own decision and what's best for him and his family, but I just kind of did my best to communicate with him kind of what the deal was out here and the outlook of the team and what to expect. Fortunate for us, he chose to come here.

What does his presence mean on this offensive line?

Bulaga: I think when you have a guy that is as intelligent as he is, that eases a lot of minds, not only from a coach's standpoint, but he's going to be extremely beneficial for Justin (Herbert.) He is one of the smartest guys I know, not only on the football field but also off it. To have a guy snapping the ball to you that has seen everything; scheme-wise there's stuff that he's used to with this new offense. To have a guy that can take control at the line of scrimmage making calls, making IDs, and helping Justin identify things, and taking that off of his plate is big time. Obviously for us up front, there's no secrets about it, the center gets us all on the same page. He's the guy making the calls, he's doing all those things. He gets everyone the right messaging up and down the line. To have a guy who can do that and perform at a very high level, it's huge.

And speaking to him off the field, he's the guy Aaron Rodgers wants to challenge in "Jeopardy!" So, he's got that intelligence!

Bulaga: He does! I think Corey would give him a pretty good run. I think there would be some random questions Corey may not know but Aaron probably would, but he'd definitely give him a run for his money. No doubt.

What're your impressions of Rashawn Slater?

Bulaga: Very impressed with him. Putting my scouting hat on right now even though I'm not a scout, I think physical traits-wise, he checks all those boxes. I think movement and his footwork and how smooth he is in pass protection and run, those are all things that are good and essential, but I think so far from what we have gone through on the field and watching tape and seeing how he's picked up things, I'm very impressed by it. I think he's gonna be a guy that catches on really quick and is able to at least certainly get comfortable with the scheme before we go out there for the first time and do it for real. Obviously throughout any rookie campaign, I experienced the same thing, there's gonna be ups and downs, that's all just part of it. But everything that he's shown so far is positive and he's just gonna continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to get more comfortable.

You mention it, you've been in that position before as a first-round, first-year tackle. What's the most important thing you could share with him?

Bulaga: I'm not gonna share all my secrets! But look, I've had a couple discussions with him already and that'll only get deeper as we get into training camp and get closer to Week 1. But for me, the biggest thing is being comfortable with the scheme, be comfortable with what your assignments are. If you're on (the same) page with what you're supposed to do, you can go out there and play fast. If you're kind of unsure about either an assignment, or a look, or something, it only causes you to play slower and I can assure you the guys across from us are not playing slow! I think for him, just make sure you're always mentally on top of what you need to do. If you have questions, you have a lot of guys in the room who've played a lot of ball. Especially in the offensive line room, no question is a bad question for us, we've all experienced it, or gone through it, or seen it.

It's gotta be a good feeling because he's coming into a pretty veteran group. It's funny because it's only your second year on the Chargers, but you're the elder statesman on this offensive line. Most of the other guys are new. So that's gotta be a good situation for Slater in terms of having that veteran leadership, presence, and guys to lean on.

Bulaga: Right now, having (Matt) Feiler next to him who's played a lot of ball. He's a good veteran, he's as solid as they come. Obviously, Corey just a yard or two down from him being able to help him out with things is enormous. I was very fortunate when I was a rookie (in Green Bay) I had Josh Sitton next to me. He was an All-Pro, Pro Bowler, and I got to play with him for a while before he moved to left guard. Then I had T.J. Lang next to me. Being able as a rookie to be next to a veteran who understands football in general and help you out with what to expect is definitely beneficial. It can calm your nerves a little bit, even though it's not gonna help totally cause at the end of the day, the nerves are always gonna be there! But I think it's definitely gonna be helpful for him to have guys playing with him and next to him and helping him out.

We talked about Corey Linsley, but then Jared Cook joins this team. Kyler Fackrell joins this team. All of a sudden you have these former Packers coming out west! How crazy is that?

Bulaga: You know, it's good to see familiar faces. And that's something that I can definitely get behind, familiar faces. These aren't guys they just picked up out of anywhere. These are guys who have played a lot of football. They're proven. They've done a lot of good things throughout their careers. I'm excited to have them. I'm looking forward to once we get into training camp and being with these guys every single day for hours on end, I'm looking forward to it. I think they're gonna make a big impact on the team.

And lastly, in 2021 what do you hope to accomplish this season?

Bulaga: Look, as offensive linemen, we're not really "me" guys, we're more "we" guys. I think everyone would say this, everyone has personal goals and that's all good. But I think number one is win. I think last year, a lot of guys have a bad taste in their mouths, and I wasn't here the year prior, but no one likes losing. It's not fun. It's not enjoyable. It's tough to go to work every day when you're not performing well and you're not playing well and things aren't going your way on the field. It's tough.

So I think it's winning. It's what everyone wants at the end of the day, it's the end goal. Obviously, guys have personal success and that adds to winning. That helps the team win, when individuals perform well. But us up front, we work in unison. When someone's having a bad practice or a bad day, it reflects on everybody. So it's our job to make sure that all of us up front are doing our job and performing well because that's only gonna benefit Justin, the backs, and the receivers. For me personally, I don't really have any (goals), I just wanna win. And I'll do everything in my ability to help this football team win and perform better.

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