This year, it's the lockout that's keeping Lang off the field.
"This time around, everybody's in the same situation," Lang told Packer Report in a phone interview last week. "It's been different, that's for sure."
Lang was a fourth-round draft pick in 2009 after starting at offensive tackle for three seasons at Eastern Michigan. He started three games at the tackle slots as a rookie, showing the poise, intelligence and toughness necessary to give him a shot to battle Mark Tauscher at right tackle or Daryn Colledge at left guard in 2010.
Instead, his season was derailed long before it started due to a broken scaphoid sustained during a practice late in the 2009 season. He had the surgery in April 2010, leaving him at far less than 100 percent when training camp began.
"When I got to training camp, I was definitely favoring it a little bit just because it had been since the season ended my rookie year since I really hit with it," Lang said. "I struggled a little bit there and really couldn't catch up. I think the biggest thing for me last year was just missing the whole offseason — the lifting aspect and the football work. That really set me back going into camp. I don't think I was in the best football shape after missing the offseason to really compete for a job. As the season went along, the better I started feeling."
T.J. Lang helps give coach Mike McCarthy a Gatorade bath.
After being inactive for the first four games of last season, Lang played in the final 16 (including playoffs). With the offensive line mostly immune from the team-wide injury bug, Lang played sparingly on offense beyond a stint at left tackle in a blowout win against Dallas and the second half at left guard at Detroit in place of injured Daryn Colledge and ineffective Jason Spitz. He also got some snaps to help a depleted defensive line in short-yardage situations during the first half of the season.
This year, Lang has a shot to get the starting job he covets. Regardless if Colledge, a free agent, signs elsewhere, Lang and friend Nick McDonald will challenge for the starting position at left guard.
To that end, Lang has been working out with McDonald and outside linebacker Frank Zombo, who live near each other outside of Detroit. Plus, Lang was one of the linemen who went to Tennessee last week to work out with the likes of Chad Clifton, Scott Wells and Tauscher.
"It was awesome to go down and see the guys," Lang said of the Tennessee trip. "We had tried to get together a few weeks back but a couple guys had previous plans. It was awesome. A lot of guys came down. It was good catching up with the guys. I hadn't seen them since February. It was awesome to see them and get a couple workouts in and go out golfing."
Of course, Lang's second season wasn't a total washout. He did play for the Super Bowl champions, and even was part of the crowning moment when he, C.J. Wilson and Ryan Pickett dumped the orange Gatorade on coach Mike McCarthy at the end of the game.
But making a run to a second championship, as a starter, is what drives Lang.
"I'm definitely excited about the opportunity," he said. "All I can ask for is an opportunity to compete at a spot and try to show that I can earn a starting role. That's what I'm hungry for. We'll see how it plays out. You never know how it'll play out with the free agents. If Daryn comes back, he's a great guy to have around. I think he takes a lot of heat for some stuff but he's a good guy and he's a good player, in my opinion. If it's a situation where he doesn't return, then I'm definitely excited to compete with a few other guys. I love the competition. It makes everybody better. I'm glad I'm healthy this year and I'm glad I'll get a chance to really show them what I've got. It'll be fun. I'm definitely looking forward to that."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.