Browns' Kruger eager for homecoming with Ravens
BEREA, Ohio (AP)
Paul Kruger hasn't shown his new teammates his diamond-studded Super Bowl ring yet. That can wait.
Kruger returns Sunday to face his former teammates, and while it will be good to see friends, they'll be sworn enemies for several hours. Since signing a five-year, $40 million, free-agent contract with Cleveland in March, Kruger has envisioned the day he'll line up across from Baltimore's offensive line, put Joe Flacco in his crosshairs and went after the Ravens quarterback.
''I have thought about it, and as soon as I knew I was coming here, being able to play against those guys, I knew it was going to be intense,'' he said.
Kruger's going back with something to prove. Overlooked on a Baltimore defense loaded with Pro Bowlers, Kruger led the Ravens in sacks but had a limited role in the Super Bowl win over San Francisco. Accustomed to 30 or 40 plays, Kruger said he was only on the field for 17 snaps - though the official sheet says 22.
As he stood on the sideline, Kruger couldn't understand why he wasn't playing. When he did get on the field, he made the most of his time, recording two sacks.
Afterward, he wondered if it was a foreshadowing of the Ravens' intentions. It left him with mixed feelings.
''I don't know if disrespected is the right word,'' Kruger said. ''I'd say more frustrated, just personally, not having to do with anybody else. I'm a competitive guy and I want to be in there on every play and I think anybody who didn't say that would be lying to you. I've had to have a chip on my shoulder since I came into the league. I think pretty much everybody does, that's just how football's played.
''You have to play tough and you've got to play angry, especially on the defensive side of the ball.''
He's got an edge, all right, and the Browns are glad.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Kruger has brought experience, leadership and toughness to Cleveland's defense, which played well last week vs. Miami. The Browns held the Dolphins to 20 rushing yards on 23 attempts. Kruger recorded a sack.
His breakout season in 2012 helped earn a life-changing contract. But beyond gaining long-term security, Kruger made a name for himself as part of a vaunted defense that included future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
''You have to earn respect in this league,'' he said. ''You can turn on the game and watch the film and some guys are going to be pointed out more than others just because that's the nature of the media. So you go to a team with a bunch of superstars, it takes a lot of hard work and plays to standout. I am not a guy who craves attention or respect from people that I don't need it from, so I feel I got respect from the coaches and opponents who respect the way I've played and that is really what I was all about.''
In Cleveland, he's been all about helping the Browns gain respect. It didn't take long for Kruger to become a leader. After all, he's the only player with a Super Bowl win.
''He knows what it takes, simple as that,'' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. ''He knows how to practice. He understands the focus that it's going to take from Week 1 to Week 16 to get to that mountaintop. We watch him all the time and ask him a ton of questions. It's good to have a guy in the locker room that's experienced that.
''Anytime he speaks we all listen.''
Kruger said he didn't take any satisfaction in watching Baltimore's defense give up 49 points to Denver in its opener. For him to feel gratified, he must fulfill himself.
''I am not the type of guy who wants to see other people fail just because I am not around or whatever,'' he said. ''I have a lot of friends over there, a lot of personal connections that I still keep close to me. So it is what it is. I would rather make a statement by what I am doing, not by what they're doing.''
NOTES: DE Ahtyba Rubin (calf) did not practice and is listed as doubtful. Safety T.J. Ward is confident he'll play after being sidelined with a sore shoulder. ... Quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer were beaten in a post-practice throwing competition by quality control coach Shane Steichen, who hit the goal post's crossbar twice in a row from 50 yards.