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T.J. Lang thrilled to be home, says Lions are ‘ready to contend’

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
T.J. Lang

Allen Park – After eight seasons in Green Bay, T.J. Lang is thrilled to be back home.

For the first time in his professional career, Lang is taking part in an offseason program with a team other than the Packers, who drafted him in fourth round out of Eastern Michigan in 2009. After fielding offers from three teams during free agency, Lang opted to sign a three-year $28.5-million contract with the Detroit Lions, the team he grew up watching as a southeast Michigan native.

“I’ve been around this game for a long time and I think everybody realizes how rare it is to play for your hometown team, the team you grew up watching and cheering for every Sunday,” Lang said. “I’m just ecstatic to be here. I know my family is. I’ve been gone for a long time.”

Lions fans are also ecstatic. The addition of Lang, 29, was the final piece of general manager Bob Quinn’s overhaul of the offensive line, which including drafting Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow and signing Rick Wagner, the top right tackle in free agency.

The unit, which has oscillated between poor and average the past several seasons, now appears to be a strength.

That excitement wasn’t lost on Lang.

“It was a little overwhelming at first,” Lang said. “I think I had to remind people that I was a guard.”

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For the time being, Lang’s workload remains limited. He’s still recovering from an offseason hip surgery that likely contributed to Green Bay’s hesitation to give him a long-term extension. But he’s pleased with how his recovery is going and still anticipates being back on the field for the start of training camp.

“Right now I'm kind of transitioning into a little bit more strength stuff,” Lang said. “Previous couple weeks has been a lot of range of motion, and try to get the soreness out. Starting to lift a little bit more, so I think I'm definitely on schedule, if not a little bit ahead.”

Chemistry is so critical along the offensive line and Lang admits there’s some frustration missing out on the upcoming OTAs, his first opportunity to work with his new teammates. But Lang is doing what he can to stay mentally active, so once he’s medically cleared, he’ll be able to hit the ground running.

“Once we start those OTAs, I won't be able to go out there, but I'm going to have to make up for it. whether it's pulling those guys aside after a break or spending extra time in the meeting room,” Lang said.  “I'll probably be annoying the hell out of them, asking a bunch of questions.

“I was telling Ricky (Wagner), we don't really have a grace period to build chemistry. We've got to show up day one and be firing on all cylinders, obviously based off of the contracts and everything. … I think that's going to be a big key for him and I, especially to make sure that we're helping each other out along the way, that we're building chemistry, even though we can't be on the field at the same time.”

The ultimate goal for Lang is team success. He’s experienced plenty in Green Bay, going to the playoffs every year and winning a Super Bowl in 2011. After less than two weeks at the Lions practice facility, he believes the team has the right mindset to reach that level.

“I think one thing I hit on back when I signed was just bringing the positive expectations, and I said I hoped they had that expectation, because this is a team I view as we're ready to contend,” Lang said.  “And getting into the building, I was very happy to see that expectations were already high. That nobody was satisfied with making the playoffs. We want to win the division, we want to have a perfect home record. Our goals are much higher than I would have thought being on the outside looking in.”