New Browns outside linebacker
“I wanted to come to a team that was excited about me, and that I was excited about them,” Kruger said during his introductory news conference Wednesday. “It was a mutual thing. I really felt like that was the biggest turning point. The excitement was there and I feel strongly about being a part of something that I think I can help make a team better.
“The organization here has been tremendous. I’ve only been here a short amount of time, and it already feels like home. I’m just really excited. It’s been a long process to get to this point. It’s just really exciting to finally be here and I’m excited to be a Cleveland Brown and be a part of something special.”
Accompanied by his mother, Jennifer, and father, Paul, Kruger was introduced to Cleveland by Browns CEO Joe Banner and head coach Rob Chudzinski.
“It’s a very exciting day for us,” Banner said. “It’s the first chance we’ve had to take last year’s team and try to improve upon it. We’re very, very excited to have Paul here. We’ve talked a lot about putting together an aggressive organization with high-character people that are determined to win. Paul’s just a top-notch reflection of that. We feel lucky and excited to have him here. It’s the beginning of the improvement from where we ended last year. It’s a great start. I’m proud for it to be the first signing under the new leadership group.”
Chudzinski added, “I’m extremely excited about Paul being here. We talked early on, when I first got the job, of wanting an attacking style of defense and find the personnel that embodies that, and Paul’s the perfect example of that type of player, a relentless guy, a high motor, very physical player, plays with a passion that you love to watch. Having the success that Paul’s had in the playoff run and being a player that guys can look to from a leadership standpoint, he brings an awful lot. 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 comes to the Browns after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. In four years with the Ravens, Kruger registered 70 total tackles, 15.5 sacks, and two interceptions, defended 14 passes, recovered three fumbles and forced another.
In 2012, Kruger led the Ravens with nine quarterback sacks. During Baltimore’s march to the Super Bowl XLVII championship, Kruger had 4.5 sacks in the playoffs, including two against San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl.
“It was a great experience with the Ravens, and I was blessed to play with that team,” Kruger said. “I’m really hoping to bring a lot of those things that I learned from that organization, from that team and all those players, teammates I had and bring those things here. I’m just really excited to get working and get moving.”
After helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl, Kruger has shifted his focus to becoming more of “an every-down player.”
“I remember watching the Browns last year,” Kruger said. “When we were on offense, I was watching and I was really impressed with the way their D-line played and how aggressive they were. I want to be somebody you can rely on during the whole game. I think I was deemed a pass-rusher only, and I think it’s something I can show people I can be effective.
“Leaving Baltimore gives you the opportunity to step out of a couple shadows that you might have been in while you were there. That’s not a negative thing in any way. Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, those are older brothers to me. I definitely see that as an opportunity for me to be able to show that I can do a lot of good things.”
BECOMING A LEADER
Although he acknowledged that it will take time to get acclimated to his new teammates and coaches, Kruger said he definitely wants to be a leader on the Browns’ defense.
“I think that has to come through time,” Kruger said. “No guy walks into a new locker room and immediately becomes the captain. You have to earn the respect of your teammates and you have to create bonds. You have to demonstrate that you’re a guy that people can follow and trust. I don’t expect that to happen overnight. I don’t expect that to be an easy process, but I think I’ll definitely be able to be somebody the team can rely on and the defense can look to, to make plays.”
PLAYING FOR HORTON
In joining the Browns, Kruger will get the opportunity to play for the team’s new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, who joined Cleveland’s staff after serving in a similar capacity with the Arizona Cardinals from 2011-12.
“It just seems like he’s got a really attacking style, aggressive style of defense, and I think that’s exactly what I was seeing in Baltimore be successful,” Kruger said of Horton. “I think we have a great opportunity to start something special this year. I think it’s just a matter of us putting it all together and making it happen.”