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Packers lineman Lang adjusts to challenging times

Sun., Dec. 25, 2011

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Tom Lang won’t be at Lambeau Field tonight to watch his son play against the Chicago Bears. In his weakened condition, he won’t miss the crowds or the cold. Watching the game on TV, sharing a front-row seat with grandson John Joseph Lang, suits him just fine.

“Being cold and sitting outside with a bunch of rowdy Packers fans probably wouldn’t be in his best interest,” said T.J. Lang, Green Bay’s third-year offensive lineman and J.J’s dad. “I think it’s more important that we’re all together in the same house for the holidays.”

That’s because his 55-year-old father was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness in mid-November.

Lang is shifting from his usual left guard spot to right tackle against the Bears, doing his part on a patchwork offensive line that will try to protect MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers better than it did against Kansas City last week, when he was sacked four times in the team’s first loss of the season.

Lang hadn’t taken a snap at right tackle all season after winning the left guard job in training camp, but was forced to switch to right tackle against the Chiefs after the Packers lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a kneecap injury and rookie first-round pick Derek Sherrod to a gruesome broken leg during the second half.

Lang has been adjusting all season. He’s been doing it on the field, where’s he a full-time starter for the first time after two years as a backup, and off the field, where he became a first-time father in August and has been trying to stay focused since his father’s diagnosis. Lang declined to identify the illness out of respect for his father’s privacy.

Lang learned of his father’s illness the morning of the Packers’ Nov. 14 Monday Night Football game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, but he played well before leaving the next morning for his father’s home in suburban Detroit, where he spent a couple of days before returning to Green Bay.

Tom Lang could not attend the game when the Packers played the Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving, but his son stayed behind to spend the weekend after the team returned to Green Bay. This will be the first time Tom Lang has been strong enough to make the eight-hour drive to Green Bay.

He, T.J.’s sister Megan and their mother, who is divorced from Tom but remains close, arrived in Green Bay on Thursday.

“He’s had some good days, he has some tough days. It’s hard on the whole family, really,” T.J. Lang said.

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