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Former Ram, Bulger adjusting to backup QBBy Dan Kolko, November 15, 2010 9:43 AM
Life is a little different for Marc Bulger these days than it had been in years past.
The longtime NFL quarterback isn't bombarded with interview requests on a daily basis. He doesn't see his face printed on billboards and splashed across the TV screen as a part of local ads.
And, most notably, he isn't getting the snaps from center when his team takes the field on gamedays.
As the Ravens' backup quarterback, Bulger hasn't stepped foot in the offensive huddle once during Baltimore's nine regular season games. This comes after he had appeared in 96 games in his previous eight seasons, 95 of which he started.
It seems like a difficult transition for a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback to make, especially considering he's just four years removed from a season in which he threw for over 4,300 yards. But Bulger says in no way, shape, or form does he regret his decision to sign on as Joe Flacco's backup here in Baltimore.
In fact, talking with him, he seems thrilled with the way things have turned out.
"When I made the decision, I wasn't going to look in the rearview mirror. I wasn't going to question it," Bulger said. "And 9 weeks in, I think I couldn't have made a better decision. We're winning, we've got a great group of guys in the locker room, a great coaching staff, the ownership is awesome. Everything I thought that this place was, it is. I don't think I could have made a better decision."
After serving as the Rams' starting quarterback for the last eight seasons, Bulger was released by St. Louis this offseason.
The 33-year-old had a choice to make: Sign with a team - likely a losing one - where he would have a starting job, or join a winning team, but serve in a backup role.
Fed up with losing after being part of a team which had earned just six wins in its previous three seasons combined, Bulger chose the latter option, signing a one-year, $3.8 million deal with Baltimore.
His frustration with the losing environment he had been a part of in St. Louis and his excitement with joining a playoff team was evident from his very first comments to the Baltimore media after signing with the Ravens in late-June.
"You went to work for the [Rams] like a job because you only win [six] games in three years, and the building's just down," said Bulger during his conference call a few weeks after inking his deal. "It goes on the players, the equipment guys, the trainers, just the whole building. You get a new atmosphere where you're talking about trying to win a Super Bowl."
That's certainly the goal in Baltimore, where Bulger has already experienced more wins in just nine games this season than he had in four of his full years in St. Louis.
His responsibilities are obviously different as a backup. He gets significantly - and I mean significantly - fewer reps in practice, but needs to be ready in case he's needed to fill in on the fly. He also is there to help Flacco with whatever he needs from a preparation standpoint.
But any negatives during the week are balanced out by a few positives.
As a starting quarterback, "everyone wants a piece of you," Bulger says. "Coaches, the media, and especially here with the team winning, the national media. So, I can kind of fly under the radar and concentrate on football, which has been nice to a certain respect."
A quiet, unassuming guy, Bulger might appreciate that he can go unnoticed during the week. But on Sundays, he obviously would prefer to be under the bright lights, with a helmet on his head instead of a headset, and a football in his hands instead of a clipboard.
He acknowledges that the victories feel slightly different when you haven't made any on-field contributions during the game itself, but that doesn't outweigh the fact that, as the old saying goes, a win is a win.
"When we beat Buffalo [in an overtime game back in Week 7], we were excited, but we felt like we should have maybe played a little bit better game and won by more. But I think I was the most excited guy in the locker room, because every win, I know how hard they are to come by," Bulger said. "That's what's great about the Ravens - we expect to win here, and just having the last couple years go the way they did, I think I might get a little more excited for wins than most of the guys."
Bulger will be a free agent again after this season, and at that time, he'll likely face a decision similar to the one he had this last offseason: Sign with a team and have a shot at the starting job, or go to what would likely be a contending team looking for a proven backup.
As a competitor, Bulger still has the desire to be "The Guy" in this league. But for now, he's enjoying his ride as a backup, where his playing time is, at this point, non-existent, but the opportunity for a deep playoff run lies ahead.
"I think every quarterback wants to be a starting quarterback," Bulger said. "No one says, 'I want to back up the rest of my career.' But, I'm happy here. The season's going great, and I haven't even looked past this week, let alone next season. So, I'm just having a great time winning these games right now."
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