PHOENIX – Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has coached some good football players over his 11 seasons at the helm in Green Bay. You don't win a Super Bowl and make eight straight playoffs appearances without good players consistently rolling through the organization.
But of all the players McCarthy has coached, T.J. Lang is one of his all-time favorites.
"We'll miss T.J.," McCarthy said of Lang, who spent his first eight seasons in Green Bay before signing with Detroit as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
"He's one of those players, personally, for me, he will be one of my favorites. I had an opportunity to coach him and watch him grow in all aspects of his life professionally and personally. I'll always look at T.J. as a Green Bay Packer and I definitely enjoyed our time together."
Lang chose to come back home (he's from Royal Oak) and sign with the Lions this offseason over re-signing with Green Bay or signing in Seattle.
He was a Pro Bowler last season, and brings instant toughness, experience and grit to the right guard spot in Detroit.
"He has all the tools, obviously, that make you an outstanding player," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of Lang Wednesday at the NFC Coaches breakfast at the league meetings.
"He's big. He's strong. He's physical. He's smart. I think those are the things that make him difficult to handle. He's a guy also who is a very, very good technician as well."
Lang, who ranked among the top six right guards in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus, was a marquee free-agent signing this offseason for Lions GM Bob Quinn, along with right tackle Rick Wagner.
Both of those signings have the potential to turn Detroit's offensive line into one of the most improved units in football next season.
Lang, 29, has won a Super Bowl and been through a lot of tough playoff battles over the years. Quinn was quick to point out that aspect when asked about Lang earlier this week. Caldwell, who was speaking to reporters for the first time since Lang's signing earlier this month, knows that experience will be a terrific asset both in the locker room and in a predominantly young offensive line room starting this season.
"I think the leadership aspect of it is without question a huge factor that he'll bring," Caldwell said. "But also the winning ways as well. He's been in some big games and knows what it's all about and understands the preparation it takes to play and play well in this league. I think that's vital"