There's no marked change in Marc Bulger
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch08/01/2004
MACOMB, Ill. - Marc Bulger became Joe Millionaire when he signed a four-year, $19.1 million contract in May.
All that money, including a $9 million signing bonus, represents a commitment by the Rams' organization to Bulger as its quarterback of the future. At least, of the near future.
But money aside, Bulger remains Joe Quarterback - just a regular guy when it comes to his approach to the game and all that comes with being a QB in the NFL.
He doesn't necessarily avoid the spotlight, but doesn't seek it out, either.
He has never been about the glitter, the endorsements, the radio and TV shows. And that doesn't figure to change, even though his life changed in a big way with the new contract and the departure of Kurt Warner.
"I really don't think it will change," Bulger said. "It is challenging sometimes. You get opportunities that you want to do. But you have to stick to who you are, and what will make you happy.
"And I don't think that doing a show maybe for an hour a week on Monday is going to make me happy. I had opportunities to do it last year, and the year before, and it's just not something that appeals to me."
For one, he no longer needs the money. For another, he likes to keep his own time his own time. For yet another, he wants to keep his eye on the target.
"Now that I have a new contract, I'm pretty secure," Bulger said. "I can concentrate on football. I'm not going to go looking for things to do. When you get those few hours off, you need that to rest. You need that to get refreshed for the next week. And I think doing too many things would hurt this team rather than help it."
So you're probably never going to see Bulger with a Monday night show on St. Louis television. ("Highly unlikely," he says.)
You're not likely to see him pitching cars, or cell phones, or plasma screens any time soon. (OK, he does have a shoe contract.)
And no disrespect to Warner, but you're not going to see Bulger at a table signing autographs for 45 minutes following every practice in training camp.
"There's not going to be a table," Bulger said. "I don't have my own football card to give out (as Warner did), so I can't get the table going. ... I'll sign my share but I'm not going to go out looking or anything."
The fact that Bulger seems intent on avoiding the trappings of success has not gone unnoticed by coach Mike Martz.
"Football's his passion," Martz said. "It's pretty much his life right now, and he's not interested in anything else. He's squared away. He doesn't need those things. And I think that's the attraction of Marc to this football team. He's just one of the guys.
"Ultimately, that's what a football team wants. They don't want somebody that they can't relate to."
When Bulger arrived at training camp Tuesday, he was engulfed by reporters waiting outside Thompson Hall. He starting answering questions without even bothering to put down a TV set he was lugging into the dormitory.
When he wasn't working out at Rams Park during the offseason, Bulger was back home in Pittsburgh throwing - as usual - to a schoolteacher Bulger would identify only as ... Zach.
"He's not Torry Holt or Isaac Bruce," Bulger said. "But he played basketball for a little school in Pittsburgh, so he's athletic enough to get in the way of the ball."
Zach has been his guy every offseason for the last three years. So why change now?
"As long as he stays employed as a teacher, he'll have his summers off," Bulger said.
They always work out on a small, scrubby field not far from Bulger's parents' house.
"It's just something I've done every year," Bulger said. "I feel like I want to stick to the routine. It's worked. It's nice. No one bothers you."
Why change? His teammates certainly don't expect that.
"I think he can just continue to be him," Holt said. "We're not expecting him to come out and be a rah-rah guy. We're not expecting him to come out and be quiet. We're just expecting him to come out and be Marc. Be a guy that's going to control the game for us, and put us in a position to win ballgames."
For the first time in his career, Bulger has gone through a full offseason as the No. 1 quarterback. Similarly, this marks his first training camp as the undisputed No. 1. Logic says that can only help in the post-Warner era.
"He's going to have an opportunity to come in here and settle in, and do his thing, without obviously, the other pressures that have gone along with it in the past," safety Adam Archuleta said.
So far in camp, some of his teammates say Bulger appears more relaxed. Others say he seems no different than last year.
On the field, he has thrown the ball well in the first few workouts of training camp. He has thrown some nice deep balls. He has been seen throwing the ball away rather than forcing it into traffic. That's a good habit to get into. Fewer interceptions and more precise deep balls are about the only changes anyone wants to see out of Bulger.
"I'm very pleased with him," Martz said Friday, five practices into camp. "He's been consistently very good. He is markedly improved from a year ago, no question about it, in terms of just the speed of seeing things and getting the ball to the right guy."
But it's way too early for sweeping judgments. Martz knows that. Bulger knows that. So do his teammates. And so do most fans. The time for that will come soon enough, far removed from Western Illinois University.