Packers' T.J. Lang gets long-awaited Pro Bowl nod
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) A bright green folder waiting for T.J. Lang at his locker after practice contained information for a possible vacation to Florida at the end of January.
If all goes as planned for Lang, the Packers offensive lineman won't have to go to the Pro Bowl in Orlando because Green Bay will be getting ready for the Super Bowl the following week.
But the eight-year veteran is proud of his long sought-after Pro Bowl recognition, a reward for a body of work the past few seasons as well as another year of fighting through injury after injury at an unglamorous position.
''About time,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''I think we all felt that way for T.J.''
The right guard is one of three Packers who were selected to the Pro Bowl this week. Like Lang, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is also being honored for the first time.
The third Pro Bowler, quarterback Aaron Rodgers , can attribute his sixth career selection in large part to the work that Lang and the rest of the line have done protecting him.
Lang has held up while getting beat up.
He has been on the injury report for hip and foot injuries, the second injury forcing him to miss Weeks 11-13.
Last week against Chicago, Lang's head collided with left guard Lane Taylor's hip while they were blocking on a screen pass on the play just before Rodgers connected with receiver Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard pass late in the fourth quarter.
Lang was scared about the injury at first after his neck whipped back on the play. He ended up with what appears to be a minor back injury.
He was back on the injury report again, limited in practice at midweek with the foot and back ailments ahead of the game Saturday against Minnesota.
''The last couple weeks have been tough, I definitely feel some pain - everybody in this locker room does,'' Lang said on Wednesday. ''Nobody's healthy at this point in the season. But I still feel like I've been getting the job done.''
Often lost in the shadows of Rodgers and the Packers' collection of big-play, skill position talent, the well-spoken Lang is one of the most respected voices in the locker room.
He's a lineman who's fine watching in the background while Rodgers dominates the spotlight. But he's also proud of what he has accomplished.
Lang lost hope of getting to the Pro Bowl after last season, when former teammate Josh Sitton made his third Pro Bowl. So after being told by a Packers public relations official that he made the team this season, Lang said he was shocked.
''Definitely got emotional. I think about my dad and how proud he'd be,'' said Lang, pausing for a couple seconds as his bottom lip quivered. ''Yeah, it was a pretty big array of emotions.''
The text messages rolled in after the Pro Bowl teams were announced later Tuesday evening, so much so that Lang had to get away from his phone for a brief break.
Whether coincidence or not, it took Sitton leaving for Lang to finally get recognized. Lang was drafted by Green Bay in the fourth round out of Eastern Michigan in 2009 , a year after Sitton was taken in the same round a year earlier.
Sitton joined the NFC North rival Chicago Bears after getting released by the Packers the week before the season opener. Lang spoke with his former teammate to thank him for his help over the years, and for the friendly, silent practice competitions.
With his contract up after this season, Lang also added a bargaining chip to his resume.
''It's definitely a huge, huge step in my career,'' Lang said, ''and honestly couldn't come at a better time for me.''
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