- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

Back up the Brinks truck Washington Redskins defensive tackle Kenard Lang is getting ready for a megabucks haul.
The unrestricted free agent has proved preseason skeptics wrong with his successful move from end to tackle and has become the team's premier player to be re-signed. The 1997 first-round choice could return next season at end if Bruce Smith retires, or he could remain at tackle. Either way, Lang's re-signing is among Washington's top needs of the coming offseason.
It will certainly be expensive, though. Lang has never reached the Pro Bowl, but playing two positions has increased his value. He once joked of needing a truck to transport his signing bonus. Agent Drew Rosenhaus is known as one of the tougher negotiators, so either the Redskins pay the market rate or Lang will probably test free agency although he wants to return.
The Redskins haven't started negotiations because coach Marty Schottenheimer prefers to wait until season's end to avoid impacting a player's production. However, the Redskins will make a serious effort to sign Lang before free agency begins March 1.
"We'd very much like to have Kenard back," Schottenheimer said.
Disbelievers said Lang (6-foot-4, 281 pounds) wouldn't last a month tangling with massive guards who often outweigh him by 40 pounds. Some thought he would be bounced off the line and leave a gaping hole in the run defense. While Lang appeared worn down the past two games, he remains one of the season's bigger surprises.
"I'm still here alive and standing," Lang said. "It was a personal challenge. I didn't want to see it get the best of me. My biggest fear is [being a] disappointment to my family and peers. That's been the main drive for me this season."
Lang counters size with speed. He was the team's standout defensive player in the opening weeks, often making plays across the field. Lang's 13 tackles against the New York Giants on Oct. 7, plus one forced fumble and one recovered fumble, were staggering.
"It's easier playing tackle because action happens a lot quicker and I can control guards because they have shorter arms," he said. "You get your head knocked around, but it's enjoyable."
Lang made more than three tackles only once in the last seven games. The Redskins' defense is playing one-third fewer snaps since the 0-5 start to partly account for the decrease, while Lang has also faced more double-teams. Opponents no longer let the guard single block Lang, and the extra attention has allowed defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson to gain more single blockers to make plays. Lang was literally knocked backward once during a Dallas double-team last week.
"It's been the big tackle that hits me from the side," he said. "Last week against [Dallas guard] Larry Allen, I get into him and the 350-pound tackle hits me. I'm 280 going against 340 and 350."
Schottenheimer said Lang "got his share of wins" against Dallas, and wasn't bothered when double-teams cleared Lang so Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith could rush for 105 yards with many straight-ahead runs.
"There's a lot of doubling teams going on," Schottenheimer said. "You're putting 700 pounds on a 280-pound guy."
Well, maybe 280 after "emotional binges" where Lang eats ice cream and other treats to gain 10 pounds. Lang may be the locker room jokester, but the pounding makes his trademark smile forced after some games.
"The adrenaline pumping has the pain going away," he said.
Lang already is looking forward to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3, when his alma mater, Miami, is expected to defend its No. 1 ranking.
"I'm going to get 80 roses and put one in each of [Miamis] lockers and let them know they deserve to be there," Lang said. "The other team, I'll be like the Addams Family and cut off the roses and give them the stems with the thorns."

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