Drafted in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Syracuse by the Titans, Bulluck became a staple on the Tennessee defense. He currently ranks third all-time in tackles and his 135 consecutive games places him fourth all-time behind Hall-of-Famer Bruce Matthews, Robert Brazile (the great Houston Oilers LB) and punter Craig Hentrich.
This weekend, Bulluck, who left the Titans this summer after ten seasons to return to his hometown Giants, will face his old mates for the first time. There are still strong feelings in the air.
Titans' coach Jeff Fisher, like everyone else, was very fond of Bulluck, who was a stalwart on the Tennessee defense for a decade. Fisher feels that Bulluck did not give him a fair opportunity to convince him to stay. Bulluck has claimed the Titans were concerned about his recovery from knee surgery and made no attempt to retain him.
The result was Bulluck accepting an offer to play for Tom Coughlin and the Giants.
The people of Tennessee, who have been going through some jilting issues of late (see Lane Kiffin) were deflated that one of their vaunted leaders had just packed up and left. Steve McNair's death was heartbreaking, senseless and shocking. Kiffin's irresponsible carpetbagging act was as insulting as it was hurtful.
Bulluck was the player that not only personified the Titans' defense, he personified the whole organization. He was the face of the team in the community as well. Bulluck was supposed to be a Titan for life.
My friend and colleague over at Football Reporters Online, Ralph Garcia, covers the Titans in Nashville. He knows the team is going through a transformation, but they never thought they'd be doing it without Bulluck. The fans feel slighted again and are buying Fisher's version of the story - Bulluck decided to leave.
His ex-teammates will surely still be in awe of him. Many loved the man as well as the player.
RB Chris Johnson, one of the NFL's top five players, will be one of those guys looking across the field at Bulluck...
"I haven't talked to him yet, but I'm sure that I'll talk to him before the week is over. He's a good friend of mine. Any time you're facing a friend or anything like that, it's going to be a good game. Basically, it's not a me vs. him thing, it's a Tennessee vs. the Giants, trying to get our offense back going....KBul was a great leader, talkative guy, he helps keep everybody up…He's great, he's missed around here but that's something we can't dwell on. We've got to stick to what we're doing and try to go ahead."
Bulluck has moved on physically, but one has to wonder what he is feeling this week. He is trying not let his emotions get the better of him. Trying.
"It won't be strange at all," said Bulluck about facing his old mates. "I practiced against those guys for about four or five years. They are used to me out there talking and running my mouth playing against them. Now, it counts for something and I'm looking forward to it. I know how hard these guys worked and how much the game means to them, and they know it means the same to me. This game will definitely be fun, and no holds-barred."
He then gave his version on his feelings for the Titans and the circumstances of hs departure...
"I would have loved to stay in Tennessee and finished it out and played with the team that brought me into the NFL. Just being there, I know how that organization works, and no one finishes their career there. I was definitely prepared for that. In my situation, it sucks how I left because I did have an injury. The last time I left the field in a Tennessee Titans uniform, Brad Brown and Tom Mosley were helping me off the field."
Bulluck still contends the Titans spoke through their inactions. The consensus was they did not want him back.
"Even if I was healthy, I don't think I would've been back there. At the beginning of the year before the season started, they didn't sign me back. At the midway point, when I was playing good football, they didn't sign me back. I think the writing was on the wall, which is fine. It's definitely part of the game."
Sunday it will all come home to roost. Hopefully, then, the Titans and Bulluck himself will finally recognize him as a Giant.