New Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger cashed in on his breakout 2012 season with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, but he didn’t sound like a complacent man while addressing the Cleveland media for the first time this afternoon.
Kruger is determined to prove he can be an every-down player. He’s determined to prove he’s more than just a complementary piece.
Kruger had just one start and 6 ½ sacks in his first three seasons with the Ravens. Last season, he started eight times, including twice in the playoffs, and tallied 13½ sacks, including 4½ in the postseason.
He’s on a mission to show his critics it wasn’t a fluke.
“Just to be an every-down player that is really effective in creating a strong force on defense,” Kruger, who signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Browns, said today during his introductory news conference at the team’s headquarters in Berea. “I think that’s the biggest thing I want to change, just being somebody you can rely on during a whole game. I think I was deemed as a pass rusher only, and I think I’ll be able to show people I can be effective on every down.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Kruger will play outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme, though Kruger also has the ability to work at defensive end when four linemen are employed in the nickel package. Jabaal Sheard also will be used as an outside linebacker in the Browns’ base defense, Chudzinski said.
“We talked early on when I first got the job about wanting an attacking style of defense and to find the personnel that embodies that, and I think Paul’s the perfect example of that type of player,” Chudzinski said. “Relentless guy, high motor, very physical player and plays with the passion that you love to watch and see players play with. And not only the things that Paul brings that Paul brings and will bring to our locker room that are so important. Having the success that Paul’s had in the playoff run and being part of that and being a player that guys can look to from a leadership standpoint as well, he brings an awful lot, and we’re excited about it. We’re excited about the process of continuing to get better and Paul being a big part of that.”
Kruger, 27, said he’s ready to establish himself as a leader, and he’s eager to show he can succeed in a new setting. Some believe his success was a result of playing opposite Ravens standout rush linebacker Terrell Suggs more than anything else.
“Leaving Baltimore gives you the opportunity to step out of a couple shadows that you might have been in when you were there,” Kruger said. “That’s not a negative thing in any way. Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, those are older brothers to me, and they’re guys who I text on a daily basis and I’m very close with. But, yeah, I definitely see that as an opportunity for me to be able to show that I can do a lot of things.”
Browns CEO Joe Banner said landing the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Kruger was instrumental in giving the organization perhaps an even better start to free agency than it expected.
“We’ve talked a lot putting together an aggressive organization, high character, people determined to win, be the best they can be, all the things we’ve talked about since the day we’ve arrived,” Banner said. “Paul’s just a top-notch reflection of that. We feel lucky and excited to have him here. We think it’s kind of the beginning of the improvement from where we ended last year to where we begin this year and a great start. I’m proud for it to be the first signing under the new leadership of the organization as well because it’s so reflective of what we want to stand for.”
After holding his No. 99 Browns jersey for a photo opportunity, Kruger explained why he’s in Cleveland.
“I wanted to come to a team that was excited about me, and I was excited about them,” Kruger said. “It was a mutual thing. I really think that was biggest turning point. The excitement was there, and it was something I felt strongly about being a part of something, that I can help make a team better.”