BEREA, Ohio -- Sometimes it is said, you can't go home, but for Paul Kruger, he's looking forward to the opportunity. He's had the date circled on his calendar since agreeing to a huge five-year $40 million contract as an unrestricted free agent with the Browns on the first day of free agency.
Kruger was asked if he's ready to rip somebody's head off as he returns to Baltimore for Sunday's game.
"Absolutely. That's the goal every week," Kruger said laughing. "I've thought about it, but as soon as I knew I was coming (to Cleveland) I knew I was going to be able to play against those guys. It's going to be intense."
Kruger said the game is big for the Browns, as well, not just for him.
"To me, it's going to be a competitive game from the standpoint that I have a lot of personal relationships with guys on the other side of the field," Kruger said. "There's some added incentive because it's a conference game and our perspective is to play some good football and winning games and especially putting ourselves in good standing in the conference."
Kruger is returning to Baltimore to play against his former team for the first team since helping them win Super Bowl XLVII after last season. Kruger was drafted in the second-round (57th overall) by the Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.
He is coming off of a breakout season in 2012 when he had 42 tackles, nine sacks, six passes broken up and a forced fumble. He had a sack in five-straight games during the season. He also had 7.5 sacks during the final eight games of the season, which was fifth in the NFL over that period of time. He had 5.5 sacks in 2011 before breaking out with nine in 2012.
However, what really set Kruger up for the big pay day in free agency was his post season run where he had 14 tackles in the postseason, including 4.5 sacks, with a pass defense, forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Kruger (6-4, 270) had two of his sacks in the biggest stage of all, the Super Bowl win over the 49ers. Kruger just felt it was part of the natural development of an NFL player.
"I think it was just more of becoming a pro," he said. "Taking care of my body, working hard and just doing the little things. That made the difference for me and over time you develop as a player as you settle into your body and you learn things about yourself, as well as opportunities. The more opportunities you have, hopefully, that translates into more plays you can make."
Kruger's two sacks in the Super Bowl was impressive as he was only in on 22 defensive plays, according to the game's play by play. He was used primarily as a pass rusher and one of his goals of joining the Browns was to be an every down player.
Kruger was asked if he felt that he was disrespected by the Ravens, while he was there.
"I don't know if disrespect is the right word," he said. "I would say I was more frustrated personally, not having anything to do with anybody else. I'm a competitive guy and I want to be in there every play and to have limited reps in the biggest game of your life was tough. I think anybody who didn't say that would be lying to you. I've had to have a chip on my shoulder since I came into the league and pretty much everybody does. That's just how football is play. You have to play angry, especially on the defensive side of the ball."
In his first game with the Browns, Kruger played 64 defensive plays, which was 94 percent of the time. He had four tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about some of Kruger's comments when he first left the Ravens about being a situational player.
''I've read most of those quotes so I guess it's in how you portray it,'' Harbaugh said in a conference call Wednesday. ''I thought the quotes were fine. Paul and I have had many conversations over the last four years along those lines. I am very proud of his development as a player. I feel like we were part of it in helping him become the player he is now and just happy for him."
Joining the Browns also allows Kruger to come out from the shadows of many of the Ravens defensive stars, but he says that's not what drives him.
"You have to earn respect in this league," Kruger said. "That's the bottom line. If you turn on the game and watch the film, some guys are going to be pointed out more than others, that's the nature of the media and guys who have earned their way into making a name for themselves. You go to a team with a bunch of superstars, it takes a lot of hard work and plays to stand out. I'm not a guy who craves attention or respect from people that I don't need it from. I feel like I got the respect and attention from the coaches and the opponents for the way I played. That's really what I'm all about."
The Ravens defense was torched by Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the season opener for seven touchdowns and 510 total yards, but Kruger said he didn't take any satisfaction in wondering if he was missed.
"I'm not the type of guy who wants to see other people fail just because I'm not around or whatever," he said. "I have a lot of friends over there and personal connections close to me, so it is what it is. I'd rather make a statement for what I'm doing, not by what they're doing."
For many years, the Browns have not been able to stop the run. Against the Dolphins last Sunday, the Browns held them to just 20 yards rushing on 23 rushing attempts, in addition to sacking the quarterback four times.
"I think anybody who turns on the tape can see we have a lot of good things going on, it's just a matter of doing it," Kruger said. "It's been a long time coming.
"We know who we are and what we can do," he said. "I think many teams know what kind of potential they have, so we weren't surprised by any of that. I would say, if you were able to be in our meeting rooms there was more frustration with the plays we missed or the plays that we had mistakes on. We know we can be a dominant defense, we just have to put it together."
Harbaugh has been impressed with what he's seen of the Browns.
''Very impressed by what you see on tape,'' he said. ''They are playing exceptionally well everywhere and their front seven – I think I've said this a couple times – I don't know if we've seen a better front seven on tape than what we are seeing.''
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is pleased with Kruger's play.
"I'm sure for him personally, this is a probably a big week," he said. "He's going to be one of our stalwarts. He played quite well last week. He played well against the run and has taken on a leadership role as he's gotten more comfortable here. I just hope to keep him from hyperventilating (against Baltimore)."
Norv on T Rich: Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said it is his expectation that RB Trent Richardson would get over 20 carries in last week's game but fell short with 13.
"We want Trent on the field," Turner said.
Turner said the biggest reason Richardson wasn't on the field more was because of the Browns poor performance on third down where they were just 1-of-14.
"The biggest thing was third down," he said. "If we convert on third down, we can keep him on the field."
Turner said Richardson will be used more and more on third down as the season goes along.
Richardson says he's all for it.
"I just do what the coach told me (to do)," he said. "Hopefully, I can get more touches."
Ray's Assessment: Defensive coordinator said the defense played well but came up short. He was asked for his assessment.
"Overall, not good enough," Horton said. "There were some ebbs and flows in the game with three and outs, but when you look at the overall performance it wasn't good enough."
Horton said if he could have back one play it would've been the call he made on the touchdown pass to WR Brian Hartline.
"When you look at the overall performance, if I could've taken back that one call, it would've (helped)," he said. "Hindsight is always 20/20."
Horton thinks the strength of the defense will be stopping the run.
"I think the run game will be our strength," he said. "We need to create some turnovers back there. I expect us to stop the run. I think that will be our calling card."
Giving up a 50 percent success ratio on third down was not acceptable.
"It was the most glaring statistic of the game, other than the score."
Mingo Up?: All indications are that rookie LB Barkevious Mingo will make his NFL debut against the Ravens, but Horton said he plans to ease him in.
"We're going to ease him in," Horton said. "Obviously, with your first round pick you want him to be on the field as much as you can.
"He'll be playing for the first time and we want to ease him in," Horton said. "It's like a learning curve, find out what he does well, but want to give him some soft pitches as he starts."
Missing Rubin: It looks more and more like the Browns will miss DL Ahtyba Rubin for the second-straight game. He was limited on Wednesday and Thursday. Horton was asked about the absence of Rubin.
"It hurts because he's a good player and you don't have him out on the field."
Rubin was on the stationary bike during practice and on the side with trainers, but OL Shawn Lauvao was not on the practice field diminishing his chances of playing this week.