|05-24-2006, 12:22 AM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Kenard Lang -- Happy Camper
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ENGLEWOOD — Kenard Lang picked him up, gave him a bear hug and set him back down.
Then the Denver Broncos defensive lineman repeated the gesture with defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
Picking up and bear hugging Patterson isn’t the easiest of tasks. He’s not the slightest of coaches.
However, that’s how much Lang appreciated Patterson and the Broncos for rescuing him from Cleveland during the offseason.
“I just said, ‘Thank you for saving me,’” said Lang, who has enjoyed this week’s minicamp.
On a personal level, he doesn’t have anything against the Browns. He played in Cleveland four of his nine years in the league. Lang, drafted 17th overall by Washington in 1997, got fed up with losing.
“You get tired of it, and it starts eating at your soul,” the University of Miami product said. “I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for me. Football is not forever, and I would rather be with a team that knows (how to win). Hopefully, I can bring my work ethic and try to make things happen for the team.”
Lang knows that he’s here because last year’s crop of Cleveland castoffs succeeded. Denver brought in a much-maligned, underachieving band of Browns and drew snide comments for it. But Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban, Michael Myers and Gerard Warren all had great years for Denver on the defensive line, paving the way for Lang.
“I was so happy for them, because they caught so much flak back in Cleveland,” said Lang, who signed a three-year deal with Denver on March 17. “Think about it: Was it the players that played that badly, or was it the coaches? A lot of people don’t want to take the blame for their own faults because they cover their own butt. I was happy for them.”
And now they’re reunited again. They even have lockers close together. It’s just like old times, except on a winning team.
“This is exciting,” Lang said.
Lang was so excited to get to work he couldn’t sleep before the start of passing camp last Tuesday.
“I was like a little kid on Christmas morning,” he said. “I had to wait for 6 a.m. to come. There’s excitement in the air, and you’re expected to do well and not just hoping, wishing and wanting.”
Lang realizes he has some big shoes to fill. He’ll be counted on to lessen the loss of defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, part of a salary purge who was subsequently signed by Baltimore.
But Lang can’t make up for the loss alone.
“People have to realize that everybody complements one another,” he said. “You heard this phrase before: (Scottie) Pippen had (Michael) Jordan, (Isiah) Thomas had (Joe) Dumars. Everybody had their person to help them out. With this group we have here, we all play well together. We’ve got a good feel for each other.”
Ekuban and Lang usually have a friendly wager on who records the most sacks that particular season, and the bet may be on again this year. Last year, Ekuban won in a landslide with four sacks. Lang had only two. In 2004 with the Browns, Ekuban had eight and Lang seven. Ekuban can’t wait to be paired with him again.
“He’s going to bring a lot of experience,” Ekuban said. “The guy works very hard. I know he’s hungry for a championship. He’s the right guy to fit into this situation where we need some more leaders on the defensive line with Trevor departing.
“I’m optimistic that he’ll come in and get his five to eight sacks.”
Sack totals don’t matter to Lang anymore. He has 44 career sacks, which is relatively close to the number of wins he has in his nine-year career (63).
These days, Lang is content to be on a winner. Every time he casts his gaze toward the mountains, a smile comes to face.
“It’s beautiful here,” he said. “The mountains look like a Hallmark card. I talked to my friend in Cleveland, and it was raining. They’re stuck inside. Here, it’s always beautiful.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here.”