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Lang Eager To Make Up For Missed Offseason

Simply put, offensive lineman T.J. Lang has done his best to make the most of a difficult situation.


Geared up like many second-year pros are for their first full offseason program in the NFL, Lang reported with the rest of the Packers' participants in mid-March and got to work. But within the first two weeks of workouts, the wrist that had begun bothering Lang toward the end of last season was flaring up again.

So he went to have another round of tests done on it and, lo and behold, a fracture that had not been visible on previous scans was suddenly present. So Lang was scheduled for surgery in early April and ruled out of all the spring organized team activities (OTAs) and recently concluded mini-camp.

Just like that, the opportunity to be in his first offseason program, a time coaches swear helps players make their biggest jumps from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL, was gone.

"It was pretty disappointing," Lang said. "I was expecting to have a pretty big offseason, but some things happen, and I had to take a different route."

What Lang did is everything in his power to make sure that different route doesn't set him back in his second season.

He has let the wrist properly recover, and he has stuck to his rehab regimen. He has spent extra time in the weight room, doing any and all lifts that don't endanger his wrist. And he attended the OTAs and mini-camp practices, watching his teammates run the plays and take the reps, mentally keeping up with the adjustments and corrections his fellow linemates were making.

One of his goals for the offseason was to get stronger, and he's still been able to do that in the weight room. Another was to gain an even better understanding of the offense, and he feels he's done that.

All that's left is to apply all that to the field, when training camp begins, and Lang is on track to do that and hopefully still be able to show that projected Year 2 improvement.

"I just want to compete for a spot," he said. "I'd like to get on the field more, I'm a competitive guy. Once we get into training camp, once those pads come on, it's a whole new game. There's going to be a lot of competition out there with the O-line. We've got a great group of guys, and I just need to find my role and compete for a spot."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said that Lang is expected to play on the right side of the line this year, at right tackle and right guard. He's not the projected starter at either spot, where Mark Tauscher and Josh Sitton, respectively, currently reside.

But just the thought of having more focus to his preparation is welcome. As a rookie last season, Lang spent most of the preseason playing left guard, then got the bulk of his playing time in games at left tackle when Chad Clifton was injured, and then was rotating some with Tauscher at right tackle later in the year.

It may not be fair to say he was jack of all trades, master of none, but it felt that way sometimes. All the moving around had its benefits, getting Lang more playing time as a rookie than he might have expected.

But it had its drawbacks, too, not allowing him to get all that comfortable in any one position while he was still learning an NFL offense for the first time.

"Last year it was tough playing so many different positions, but I think it helped me out tremendously this year, just watching film," he said. "When we were going over the installs again from last year and re-learning the plays, I know every position. Last year I was new to it all and this year I pretty much know all the positions, so if they have to plug me into a different spot then I'll feel comfortable getting out there and executing.

"But it will be nice if I can hopefully settle down in one spot."

If he had to pick one, Lang would probably lean toward right tackle, where he's seen as a potential heir apparent to the veteran Tauscher.

But teams can't afford to have 10 offensive linemen on an active 45-man gameday roster, so there's never one designated backup for every spot up front on Sundays. Playing, and knowing, multiple positions only helps a lineman both earn a roster spot and stay activated on gamedays.

Perhaps playing tackle and guard in 2010, but primarily on the right side, is the perfect compromise for Lang after what he endured as a rookie.

But the first step is getting to put on his helmet again and test the troublesome wrist in combat.

"There's not a play where I'm not punching somebody or grabbing somebody, so it's significant, and if it's not treated properly then it can get worse," he said. "But I think I've done a pretty good job with it so far, rehabbing it, and it's feeling good.

"I'm expecting to be out there on the field the first day of training camp. My wrist will probably still be bugging me a little bit. I'll probably have to play with a heavy brace, if not a cast, but as long as I'm out there running around, getting more comfortable with the plays and with the position I'll be at, I'll improve pretty quickly."

Maybe not as quickly as if he'd been able to practice for the last five weeks, but Lang has done his best to minimize any potential setback in his development.

"Whenever you miss practice, you're always losing valuable experience," he said, admitting he expects to be a bit rusty with his technique when he first returns to the field. "But I've also had the opportunity to spend a lot more time in the weight room. I've also had a lot more time to study other positions when I'm not playing. I watch the guys out there, from a whole different vantage point, and I'm able to see a lot more of what's going on out there.

"Just from watching the whole offseason, I feel like ... I'm almost ready to go, just because I've learned so much."

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