GREEN BAY – As the large group of reporters at T.J. Lang’s locker Monday afternoon began to go their separate ways, a couple lingered with a few additional questions for the Green Bay Packers’ new starting left guard.
“I hope I don’t get the Daryn Colledge treatment,” Lang said to them, referring to his oft-criticized predecessor. “You guys were a little rough on him sometimes.”
Just as coach Mike McCarthy said when he announced Monday that Lang had beaten out rookie first-round pick Derek Sherrod to win the starting job, it’ll be up to Lang to decide what happens next – whether he keeps the starting job, and whether his level of play is viewed positively or negatively.
“It’s T.J.’s responsibility to hold onto that job,” said McCarthy, who now has his starting five linemen intact for Friday’s third preseason game, at Indianapolis, and in turn for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. “At some point in camp – we didn’t know exactly when – we were going to do that. Now’s the time, based on the information available and timing and injury. We felt this is the time to move forward and try to lock in. T.J. needs to take full advantage of this opportunity he has.”
While McCarthy said the coaches “factored everything” into their decision, he intimated that the decision had less to do with the mild knee sprain Sherrod suffered Friday night against Arizona and more to do with the way Lang outplayed the rookie at just about every turn.
“If you’re talking about performance, T.J.’s performance grade was above Sherrod’s,” McCarthy said. “It’s important that we move forward and try to get a cohesive unit ready for New Orleans. I liked what I saw of Derek. He’s a young, talented offensive lineman. (But) T.J.’s been here, he has the experience and he’s taken a big step. He’s done a lot of good things this camp.”
Lang, meanwhile, was rewarded for his professional approach when the coaches decided to give Sherrod the majority of the first-team snaps in practice at the start of training camp.
“This three-week battle, it’s been a challenging process,” Lang said. “Just competing with Derek, having a rookie come in and challenge you for a spot, the way he was playing – overall, it made me a better player and made me want to earn that spot even more. Now that that spot is mine, it’s my job to hold onto it now.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that the depth chart can change day by day. It’s my job now to play to a higher level and be an impact player for this team. I don’t want to come in as a new starter for this team and have any glaring holes. I want to fill that spot and do my job. I’m definitely excited to take it to another level now that I know what’s going to happen.”
Lang, whose second season was derailed by a wrist injury that occurred late in his rookie season, required surgery and forced him to miss most of the offseason work while it healed before last season, admitted that Sherrod’s treatment motivated him.
“Honestly, it made me work that much harder. I don’t know if that was their goal, to kind of light a fire under my ass, but whatever they did, it definitely worked,” Lang said. “My first personal goal coming into this year was I wanted to be a starter. I feel like this is my third year, I know the offense, I can get out there and do the job. Just the fact that I didn’t have anything handed to me, I had to work for that spot, makes me appreciate it that much more. Now I’m ready to set new goals for myself – be an impact player and be a guy that goes out there game after game and be consistent and continue to do my job.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.