One side of the Ravens’ defensive overhaul this offseason was letting a number of key veterans walk away.
They get to see the first of those departed former teammates up close on Sunday afternoon. Linebacker Paul Kruger traded in his purple and black for Cleveland brown - oh, and a five-year, $40.5 million contract.
Kruger recorded 15.5 sacks and played in 51 games with Baltimore after being selected by the team in the second round of the 2009 draft. Last season, in his contract year, he broke out for career highs of 42 tackles and nine sacks during the regular season before adding 4.5 sacks during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.
He had four tackles, including a sack, in his Browns debut last week.
Kruger talked to the Baltimore media about returning to town so soon after leaving during a conference call.
“I’m excited - just being able to play against my old team, especially in a conference game like this. It’s a big one for us for sure,” he said.
As for being an opponent when the Ravens unveil the Super Bowl XLVII banner Sunday, a banner he helped them earn, Kruger acknowledged it will be strange.
“It’s going to be a little different,” Kruger told the media. “I was there for four years and have so many friends and people over there that I still talk to. It’s going to be different for sure, but I’ve made this place a new home and am really loving it here. I’m excited (with) what we’ve got going on, so it’s going to be interesting.”
“Hopefully, he doesn’t get to me, and if he does, hopefully I can shake him off and talk a little trash to him afterward,” Flacco said. “But it will be funny lining up against Paul. He’s been here since my second year, so it will be a little interesting lining up against him and seeing what he’s got.”
Said Suggs: “Oh, old homeboy, ‘Saul Tuger?’ It’s going to be good; it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be weird seeing him in a different uniform.”
The Ravens also will see Browns kicker Billy Cundiff, who will play a game that counts in Baltimore for the first time since missing a would-be game-tying chip shot that cost the Ravens overtime in the 2011 AFC championship game.
Coach John Harbaugh said he hopes to have a chance to talk to Cundiff.
“Billy is a very good kicker, and Billy made a lot of kicks, especially at M&T,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if he ever missed here. He’s kicked off really well for them so far. He’ll be another guy who is on the other side for this game, but I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
As for the Browns as a whole, the Ravens go up against an improved defense that performed well in a 23-10 loss to Miami on Sunday. Cleveland held the Dolphins to just 275 yards, including an NFL-best 20 yards on the ground.
The Browns struggled offensively, scoring just 10 points and compiling 291 yards. Tailback Trent Richardson was held to 47 rushing yards. Quarterback Brandon Weeden passed for 289 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times and absorbed six sacks, something which should have the Ravens’ defensive playmakers salivating.