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Bulman breaks through


Defensive end Tim Bulman can't hide his New England pride. The Boston College product boasts a Beantown accent and proudly wears a Larry Bird jersey in the Texans' locker room.

But when head coach Gary Kubiak asked Bulman to fly with the team to his native New England, the utility lineman declined. Bulman, who was on the practice squad at the time, told Kubiak that he did not want to travel with the Texans until he was on the active roster.

"I would have probably gone up there with my tail between my legs not being active and not playing," Bulman said. "That's the mindset I have. I want to earn everything that I get. I don't really want a free handout. I appreciated the opportunity, but I wanted to be on that plane when I earned it."

{QUOTE}Bulman looks like he could be flying first class these days. The fourth-year pro has been getting reps with the starters during OTAs at defensive tackle and defensive end as several linemen nurse injuries. It could be the biggest opportunity Bulman has had in his career.

"I've gotten reps in there, especially at drop end," Bulman said. "Getting the terminology, especially with the first team, and getting in with those guys and getting to gel – it's definitely been really good because you won't have that opportunity a lot. I think I've definitely taken advantage of it."

The team's coaches would agree. Bulman has lined up opposite defensive end Mario Williams and proved himself as a pass rusher.

"He's done a lot of pass rushing with the first group in nickel and those type of things," Kubiak said. "He's a guy that's earning his keep. He's done a very good job."

Bulman's work ethic has been setting him apart since 2005, when he signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. Since then he has bounced between the practice squad and the active roster.

In 2006, the Texans activated him at the end of December, but Bulman did not step on the field in the last two games of the season.

When Bulman began 2007 on the practice squad, he made it his mission to make a play in a regular season game. For motivation, he told himself on every snap during practice that he would die if he did not make a play on the ball.

"I've tried that mindset, tried to get it to work," Bulman said. "Our college coach got that in us. Any edge I get, I try to use.

"On the field, I just try to get out everything I want to get out. I try to go as hard as I can every play. I try to take the mindset that I can make the play at every snap of the game. If I don't make it, I'm a little bit upset."

At the end of the season, Bulman finally got his chance. He made the active roster in mid-December and days later played his first down since 2005. Bulman recorded one solo tackle against the Colts and the following week he notched a solo stop in the season finale against Jacksonville.

Now, Bulman faces a make-or-break year because he no longer is eligible for the practice squad.

"I played sparingly in the first two years," Bulman said. "If I don't get it done, I can't be on anyone's practice squad. It's either you get it done or be on the streets."

It helps Bulman that he can play several positions on the defensive line. Starting defensive tackle Travis Johnson has been nursing a pelvic injury and defensive end Anthony Weaver has battled pain in his surgically repaired knee. Bulman, potentially, could step in at both spots.

"He's going to be hard to keep off the field," Kubiak said. "That's the type of worker he is. He's an interesting kid. I remember I went to him and offered to take him on a trip with us when he was on the practice squad. He said, 'Coach, I'll go when I earn my trip when I'm playing.' So he's earning his trip right now."

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