By Troy A. Sparks
GREEN BAY – On April 22, I drove two hours north from my home, arriving at 3:50 p.m., going to Lambeau Field for my first experience of draft day in Green Bay.
I don’t need to tell you that I was the only black media member there. Doug Russell, Tim Van Vooren, Michael Hunt and Andy Kendeigh, to name a few, know my face but not my name as they always speak.
In the media auditorium, there was pre-draft coverage on the NFL Network and ESPN on two separate flat screen TV’s. The NFL Draft began at 6:30 p.m. Since Green Bay had the No. 23 overall pick, I anticipated four more hours of waiting, although assistant PR director Sarah Quick thought it would be before 10 p.m. before the Packers pick. She was right.
I entered the visiting bus bay, where the visiting team buses park and received my yellow wristband.
Armed with a recent copy of the “Dope Sheet,” the Packers’ weekly media report published since the 1920’s, I had all the info needed for the draft.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wanted the draft to be carried in prime time to get more viewers tuned in. It’s a good thing the first day included first round picks only, with each team allowed 10 minutes for their selection.
The league thought the numbers were better on that Thursday evening when “Joe Hardhat” came home from work, kicked off his boots and watched ESPN instead of a Saturday afternoon when he went on an outing with his family.
The last time Green Bay had the No. 23 pick was back in 1976 when they took tackle Mark Koncar from Colorado. Koncar played five seasons for the Packers.
At approximately 6:30, the draft got underway when Goodell said, “St. Louis is on the clock.” The Rams picked Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford. Some teams didn’t need the entire time to make up their minds.
I took the ½ mile walk around the corner to Curly’s Pub to walk off the food I ate and killed some time. There were over 100 people in the bar and almost 100 stood in line to get autographs from the Packers’ James and Brad Jones.
The first hour passed, and 10 players were selected. It appeared that Green Bay would pick before 9:30 p.m., giving the fast pace of the selections.
Who would general manager Ted Thompson choose at 23? Last year, he made two good first round picks and we didn’t expect him to blow this one.
At 8:51 p.m., far under the anticipated 10:30 p.m. time, Goodell made this announcement: “With the 23rd pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Bryan Bulaga, offensive tackle from Iowa.”
Some scouts thought it was a safe pick. Thompson was surprised that Bulaga fell to them. He was invited to New York. Bulaga was projected in the top 16. That pick fulfilled a need for an offensive lineman.
Bulaga will learn both tackle positions. At 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, he’s tough, according to Thompson, and a hard worker that will push current and aging tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher for playing time.
Bulaga said on a conference call that he watches movies, no matter how bad they are.
Someone in the video department should make him a “movie” of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 56 sacks from last season as a reminder that he’s a snap away from being Rodgers’ bodyguard on the left side.
The Packers chose the following players in the draft from rounds second to seventh: Mike Neal, DE and Morgan Burnett, S (2nd), Andrew Quarless, TE (4th), Marshall Newhouse, T/G (5th), James Starks, RB (6th) and C.J. Wilson, DE (7th).
Bucks Bow Out in Seven Games
With Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut unable to save the Bucks in their first two playoff losses to Atlanta on the road because of injury, it was up to the team to save their season at home for Games 3 and 4 against the Hawks, who had plans for a sweep.
The 107-89 win in Game 3 by Milwaukee on April 24 was preceded by the earlier announcement of Bucks general manager John Hammond as the NBA’s Executive of the Year.
The Bucks began the game on a 17-5 run and never looked back. The Hawks couldn’t match the energy of the home team and its fans.
Said forward Josh Smith: “They had their day. I think we didn’t bring our own energy.
We knew they were going to bring their energy. They were at home for their first (playoff) game and we just didn’t bring it.”
Smith thought Atlanta would play better in Game 4, April 26, at the Bradley Center. They didn’t, losing 111-104. The Hawks were “punked” in their own house in Game 5, losing 91-87, April 28, and they were down 3-2 with a return trip to the Bradley Center for Game 6 last Friday. The 83-69 win by the visitors set the stage for a decisive Game 7 at Philips Arena Sunday.
As the pressure scale was balanced for both teams in a 3-3 tie, Atlanta imposed their will on Milwaukee to win big, 95-74. Orlando will play the Hawks in the second round.
The Bucks have nothing to be ashamed of. When most people gave them no chance, they stretched the Hawks to the brink of elimination. Now we need better players who want to come to Milwaukee and make us playoff contenders for years.
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