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Packers veteran LT Clifton battling knee soreness, rookie Bulaga may start vs. Bears

Veteran Chad Clifton remains the Green Bay Packers' starting left tackle.

That doesn't mean he'll start against the Chicago Bears next Monday night.

Clifton was benched in favor of first-round rookie Bryan Bulaga during Sunday's victory over the Buffalo Bills, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he made the move because Clifton "didn't look healthy." Continued knee soreness is putting Clifton's availability against the Bears in doubt.

"He's our starting left tackle," McCarthy said. "He's battling through a rough spot right now medically. We have Bryan Bulaga getting ready. I thought Bryan played well with his opportunity yesterday."

Facing a Monday night game, the Packers would have an extra day to get their rookie ready.

"It helps you, one more day of preparation," McCarthy said. "We'll take advantage of that, and I'm sure Bryan will take a lot of the practice reps this week. We'll make sure Bryan's ready, and we'll do what we need to do to get Chad ready."

Making his first career start against the Bears at Soldier Field could be a big deal for Bulaga, a native of Crystal Lake, Ill. — although any excitement might be tempered by the prospect of facing Julius Peppers.

Bulaga went into the draft after his junior year at Iowa, and was taken No. 23 overall by the Packers.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Bulaga played well Sunday, other than a false start penalty in the fourth quarter.

"Bulaga, from day one, he's fit in personality-wise very well here and I like his work ethic and I have a lot of confidence when he's in the game," Rodgers said after Sunday's game. "Other than the jump on a hard count, I think he did a nice job for us."

Although Bulaga is expected to become the Packers' long-term left tackle, he was given a chance to compete with veteran Daryn Colledge for the starting left guard job in training camp. Colledge won the job in camp after Bulaga missed time with a right hip flexor injury. On Sunday, they lined up next to each other.

"I know he was nervous, but at the same time he was extremely excited," Colledge said Sunday. "He got out there and I thought he did a good job from what I could tell. He had one false start just like me so the left side kind of held down the penalties. I think he was excited to get out there and show what he's got."

Colledge called the transition seamless, although the rest of the linemen did try to simplify the calls they make at the line of scrimmage.

"When it's me and Bulaga in there, I just want him to settle down so I'm going to tell him what we're doing and we're just going to roll," Colledge said. "I thought he did a great job. He was physical in his plays and he blocked well."

As might be expected of an 11-year NFL veteran, Clifton has a history of knee issues and was receiving medical treatment Monday.

Clifton, who had arthroscopic surgery on both knees and both shoulders before the 2009 season, had swelling in his right knee toward the end of training camp this year and sat out practice.

McCarthy said the team will take the week to determine whether Clifton will start against the Bears, and Bulaga will likely get a significant number of snaps at left tackle in practice.

"He's played a lot of football," McCarthy said of Clifton. "He's had a number of surgeries, both knees, shoulders, and it's some wear-and-tear. We just feel that we need to treat him accordingly. They're trying different things, and hopefully he'll be ready for Chicago. There's really nothing else to talk about."