In a word that sums up Paul Kruger’s feeling towards the Baltimore Ravens.
Ozzie Newsome from the beginning of free agency barely lifted a finger to retain the services of the developing pass rush specialist. The lack of interest suggested that Ozzie already knew that Kruger would attract suitors who would shower the former Ute with millions and effectively remove him from consideration for “right player, right price.”
Despite a five year, $40 million contract, Kruger will apparently return to Baltimore with an axe to grind and something to prove.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, when asked if he’d like to return to M&T Bank Stadium and tear the head off someone from his former team on Sunday, Kruger nearly frothed at the mouth.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Absolutely, that’s the goal every week (but) yeah, definitely. God, I’ve thought about it, and as soon as I knew I was coming here, being able to play against those guys — it’s going to be intense.”
Kruger’s apparent disdain didn’t end there. He felt slighted by his playing time in Super Bowl XLVII, when the Ravens opted to use Courtney Upshaw more in an obvious attempt to thwart Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ read-option offense. And given Kruger’s past inabilities to hold the edge down in run support, it’s hard to fault Dean Pees’ approach.
“I always want to be on the field, especially in a game like that, when I felt I was pretty dominant against the guy I was playing. I just didn’t understand it.”
And as revealed in the Plain Dealer piece, perhaps Kruger was never really the “TEAM” player that John Harbaugh endears himself to.
According to Kruger’s younger brother, Dave, despite two sacks and a World Championship, personal achievement is apparently a little more important to Paul.
“He had just won the Super Bowl and he was, ‘Gosh dammit, I didn’t get enough playing time,’” Dave told Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram back in August.
“I was like, ‘Bro, you just had two sacks in the Super Bowl and you just won. It’s not a big deal.’ But that’s the mentality Paul has, he’s the biggest competitor I’ve ever seen. He’d just won the Super Bowl and he’s worried about not getting enough reps so he can show his true talent — and he had two sacks. He’s not thinking about it all the time, but he was a little annoyed at the time.”
Now with his multi-millions, Kruger will have that opportunity in Cleveland where he’ll have to earn his paycheck as an every down player – something he never was as a member of the Ravens.
Last week in his new full-time role Kruger got off to a very good start in the Factory of Sadness with 4 tackles, 2 for losses, a sack and 2 QB hurries in a 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Cleveland. And while he’s been criticized often for his inability to defend the run, that can’t be said of his Browns debut given that Cleveland yielded only 20 rushing yards on 23 carries.
This Sunday there’s little doubt that Kruger will be tested by Vonta Leach who will be leading the way for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. They will look to move Kruger out of his comfort zone and not allow him to tee off on Michael Oher who is slowed by an ankle sprain.
It will be an interesting game within the game.
And soon we’ll whose head is still attached.