DENVER (May 22, 2006) -- Kenard Lang felt left behind last summer as he watched four of his Cleveland Browns defensive linemates leave for a chance to rescue their careers in Denver.
"I was like a little kid chasing the school bus down the street -- oh, why are you all leaving me?" Lang said.
In four separate transactions last year, the Broncos signed former Cleveland linemen Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers, along with the man who coached them -- Andre Patterson.
While the line tallied only 28 sacks -- third-fewest in the league -- it produced pressure that created 36 turnovers, 16 more than the previous season.
This year, the Broncos jettisoned nine-year starter Trevor Pryce to create space under the salary cap and they knew exactly where to go for another pass rusher.
Lang is now the fifth member of the "Browncos."
He signed a three-year deal in Denver after the Browns cut him in their own salary-cap purge. He was deemed expendable not only because of his salary in 2006 but also because his sack totals diminished when he was switched from defensive end to linebacker last season.
Lang, a nine-year veteran, lost 25 pounds to change positions when new coach Romeo Crennel implemented the 3-4 defense in Cleveland. He recorded only two sacks and 43 tackles.
The Broncos were undaunted.
"We looked at Kenard last year. We liked him as a pass rusher at defensive end," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "Obviously, they moved him to more of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. We thought he'd be good with our situation at end."
Lang played four seasons with the Browns and appeared in 62 games, including 49 starts at defensive end, after spending his first five years in Washington. His best season came in 2003, when he had a career-high 79 tackles and eight sacks.
Like the rest of the "Browncos," Lang is happy to be out of Cleveland and thrilled to be in Denver.
Before the Broncos' offseason workouts started last week, Lang walked up to Patterson and defensive ends coach Jacob Burney "and gave them two big bear hugs and I said, 'Thank you for saving me.' "
"It's not that things (were bad in Cleveland). They're getting better with Romeo over there, don't get me wrong. But when you get tired of losing, it starts eating at your soul," Lang said. "I can see that light at the end of the tunnel for me. Football is not forever, and I'd rather be with a team that knows what's best to do, and that's what coach Shanahan does."
Despite feeling left behind, Lang spent last season cheering on his former Cleveland linemates who helped lead the Broncos to the AFC title game.
Lang, however, never really thought he would join them. He envisioned his switch to linebacker as the last move he would make in his career that began as a first-round draft pick by the Redskins in 1997.
Now, he's back at his familiar position and in refreshing new surroundings.
"Now I'm here in Denver, where it's beautiful; I love it. The weather is always nice. It's not cloudy; it's not raining. The whole atmosphere is different. Nothing against Cleveland, they have great fans and everything, and I know Denver does, also, but it's just the atmosphere," Lang said.
The Associated Press News Service
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