T.J. Lang putting focus on health, not contract

Lori Nickel
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - Veteran guard T.J. Lang will head into a contract year just months after shoulder surgery, with no talks at the moment about his future, and little possibility of getting on the field before training camp in late July.

That’s why the 28-year-old can’t even begin to guess right now what will happen later.

“I’m not,” was Lang’s answer when asked if he was aware of any contract talks between the Green Bay Packers and his agent.

“There hasn’t been much going on, which is understandable. I’m coming off surgery. Obviously, I think, you won’t really get a contract extension while you’re injured, so (laughs).

“My focus right now is just getting healthy and coming back and being ready to go by training camp and just have another strong year and whatever happens, happens.”

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Lang’s shoulders have been bothering him for a while now — the right one for more than a year and the left one for even longer — but he’s always elected to put off surgery in the offseason.

He didn’t have a choice this time. Lang had his right shoulder surgically repaired in the first week of February, not long after the end of the playoffs.

Even though the injury was serious enough to require surgery, he played through it down the stretch last season. He was listed on the injury report in Week 11 and missed a game in Week 13, Dec. 3 at Detroit. It was the first time in Lang’s career he missed a game because of an injury, which ended his 46-game playing streak.

He didn’t talk much about his shoulders, he just played with the injuries — admitting only sometimes it was tough. He already had been playing on an injured knee he suffered Oct. 11 against the Rams.

In 2014, Lang missed some of the offseason with a sore and injured shoulder, but it wasn’t as serious.

That’s why his focus right now is on his health. Heading into his eighth season, Lang doesn’t desperately need these organized team activities to prepare himself. He’s been a starter since 2011 and has played 119 games including playoffs in his career. He’s played every position on the offensive line except center.

The Packers certainly will take all of that and more into account when his future is addressed. Lang matured soon after making it into the league as a fourth-round draft choice in 2009, has mentored younger teammates without needing to be asked and managed whatever was thrown at him. He’s a tall locker room presence, gives straightforward answers and is well-liked by teammates.

But he’s not alone in his situation. Guard Josh Sitton, tackle David Bakhtiari and center JC Tretter are also in the final years of their contracts. This could be their last year together on the same team.

“Everybody understands the situation that’s coming up after the season, but we don’t really think about it a whole lot, we don’t talk about it a whole lot,” Lang said.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen, and only time will tell. But we’ve still got a lot of games left before something like that is decided. Until then, we’ll just take it slow and just enjoy the time we have together.”

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One thing he does know — he has to be healthy. He’s played both left guard and right guard in his career and he needs his power to survive.

“You see D-tackles in this league lately?” Lang said. “You see the evolution of the defensive linemen in this league. You rarely get the 350-pounders anymore.

“Everybody is strong, everybody is fast, everybody is quick, everybody can rush the passer and everybody can stop the run. We don’t go against those big space eaters anymore.

“I still feel there’s a sense of, when you think about guards, you think about being maulers and run blockers. Maybe that was the case 10, 15, 20 years ago — but you look around the league now and those guys have to be pass blocking. And I think playing guard — it’s not what it used to be. I think it’s a more important position than many people think."

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