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NFL: Browns' Paul Kruger eager for homecoming with Ravens

Published September 13, 2013 7:17 pm

Cleveland's big free-agent signing expects intense game against old teammates.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Berea, Ohio • Paul Kruger hasn't shown his new teammates his diamond-studded Super Bowl ring yet.

First, the Browns linebacker wants to settle some unfinished business with the Baltimore Ravens, the team he helped win it all, and the one that allowed him to walk.

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 put Joe Flacco in his crosshairs and go 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, the former University of Utah star led the Ravens in sacks but had a limited role in the Super Bowl win. 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, he made the most of his time, recording two sacks.

Afterward, he wondered if it was a foreshadowing of the Ravens' intentions.

"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.

"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."