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With Lang On The Lions, Life Will Be Easier For Caldwell

By: Will Burchfield

For the past three seasons, Jim Caldwell has had to game-plan for T.J. Lang. The Lions head coach is looking forward to game-planning with him.

"He has all of the tools, obviously, that make you an outstanding player. He's big, he's strong, he's physical, he's smart and I think those are the things that make him difficult to handle," Caldwell told reporters at the owners meetings in Phoenix on Wednesday. "He's a guy, also, that's a very, very good technician."

Lang signed a three-year deal with the Lions earlier this month after spending the first eight years of his career with the rival Packers. The 29-year-old right guard, who was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2016, will add more than just power and brawn to Detroit's offensive line.

"Obviously going to bring some leadership as well, and I think he'll do a great job there," said Caldwell. "You just take a look at his reputation, what he's done, where's he's been - he's won a lot of games, been involved in a lot of big games - and I think that does indeed help."

In sizing up the free agent market, the Lions were searching for someone who could step in and help mentor a young offensive line. With his winning pedigree and veteran knowhow, Lang fit the bill.

"I think the leadership aspect of it is without question a huge factor. But also the winning ways as well," Caldwell said. "He's been in some big games, knows what it's all about, understands the preparation that it takes to play and play well in this league and I think that'll help. We have a fairly young room, so I think that's vital," Caldwell said.

Lang is eager to bring his wealth of knowledge to the Lions locker room. And he hopes to instill a heightened sense of expectations in his new teammates. But he doesn't expect to assume a leadership role on day one.

"I think it'll take some time. Obviously I have to get in there and figure out who the leaders are and who the guys are that everyone looks up to," Lang told 97.1 The Ticket after his signing. "My role early on will be just going in and earning respect and earning trust from my teammates.

"I'm excited to share my experiences throughout the last eight years and kind of fill in here and there, but I can't just go in there without any credibility or without any respect and start demanding all these changes and (saying), 'This is how we should do things.' I have to learn from those guys. But if there's anything I can do to maybe give some guidance or throw some adjustments around then certainly I'll step up and do that."

Lang knows what the Lions want out of him. They expressed themselves clearly during the recruiting process.

"The biggest thing when they brought me in was they really wanted a veteran, leadership-type guy on the offensive line," Lang said

He won't have to do much to deliver.

"They don't want me to change, they want me to be who I am -- come in and make great relationships with those guys. And like I said, I'm really looking forward to learning as much from those guys as I am to teaching them a little bit of the ropes and what it takes to be successful in this league."

Caldwell rebuffed the idea that stealing Lang from the Packers fed into the Lions' decision to sign him.

"We're all working with the same amount of money and there's a lot of good players throughout the league. They're going to continue to be a really good team," he said with a smile. "That's not a newsflash."

Still, the Packers won't be as good without him -- and the Lions will be better with him. At the very least, that'll make Caldwell's job a tad easier when the two teams square off in the future.

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