Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers break down the Lions' loss to the Steelers and what lies ahead against the Packers on Monday night. Detroit News
Allen Park — If T.J. Lang never has to hear “Bang the Drum” or “Roll out the Barrel” again, he’d be just fine with that. But the Lions guard has plenty of fond memories of Lambeau Field from his eight years playing with the Green Bay Packers.
And while most players dread playing in Wisconsin’s wintery elements, when the mercury barely rises and a rock is slightly softer than the ground, those are the moments Lang loved the most.
“Those late season games, when it’s zero degrees outside and everybody is freezing, I took a great amount of joy playing in those games, when the conditions are really, really bad,” Lang said. “It just kind of makes it fun. Those were some of my favorite games there.”
Lang appeared in 119 games for the Packers, starting 94, prior to signing with his hometown Detroit Lions this offseason. It’s been a rewarding decision, not just because he received a three-year, $28.5 million pact to make the move, but because it’s brought him closer to family.
He gets to make up for lost time with his three younger brothers and his children get to spend more time with their grandparents, on both Lang and his wife’s side.
“Being gone the majority of the past eight years, you miss a lot,” Lang said.
And Lang has thrived in his new settings. Both coach Jim Caldwell and quarterback Matthew Stafford praised not just the performance, but the leadership Lang has provided.
“He’s been not only a very, very good consistent player for us, but he’s also been good in the locker room, great with the leadership in terms of the offensive line,” Caldwell said. “He’s brought a lot to the table. He knows what winning’s all about.”
Former coach Mike McCarthy has also kept tabs on his former player.
“We feel that he’s their best lineman as far as going through our personnel evaluation, and our defense is getting ready to compete against him,” McCarthy said during a Thursday conference call. “So obviously it’ll be a moment for him, but when that ball is kicked off, T.J. will play football with his style of play like he always has.”
You can tell the familiarity because McCarthy’s comments were almost an echo of what Lang said in the locker room minutes earlier.
“I think the whole pregame might be a little different, being on the opposing sideline,” Lang said. “But, you know what, I’ve never been a guy that gets enamored with the crowd or the noise, just go out there and focus on doing my job.
“Once the game starts, you have to focus on your job, being professional, doing everything you can to win a game.”
Lang doesn’t know how Packers fans will react to his return. He also doesn’t seem particularly interested in the nostalgia. The only time he’s reflected on his memories is when doing interviews this week.
And yeah, at one point he believed he’d play his entire career with the Packers. But that’s not how things typically work in sports, and his path led him back home.
“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”