OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last season, Paul Kruger was a big part of a Baltimore defense that helped lead the Ravens to their first Super Bowl title in 10 years.
The Ravens will unfurl their 2013 title banner Sunday in their first home game of the new season, and Kruger will be in attendance. But the former University of Utah standout will not be wearing Ravens purple, as he signed with the Cleveland Browns during the offseason.
The Browns face Baltimore on Sunday at 11 a.m. MDT in a conference game between winless teams at M&T Bank Stadium.
“The past is the past. Right now I am looking forward. I had a tremendous experience there,” the 6-foot-4 linebacker Kruger said in a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters Wednesday. “It is something I will always carry with me. Obviously, the Super Bowl last year is something I will never forget.
“It is an exciting thing to be part of that,” he added. “I have so many good memories there.”
Kruger, a second-round pick in 2009 by the Ravens, was a free agent after last season. Before negotiations began, he said he was not sure where he would end up. He ultimately signed a five-year deal with the Browns for $41 million, according to published reports.
“I didn’t know if that would happen or not,” he said of re-upping with the Ravens. “I learned pretty quickly I wouldn’t be there” after talks began.
“It went smooth. I am really happy with the outcome. I am not looking back,” he said. “In Baltimore we had so many guys I could look up to. I took my experience in Baltimore and try to apply that here.”
The Browns will not be facing last year's vaunted Baltimore defense on Sunday. All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis retired and All-Pro defensive back Ed Reed signed with the Texans.
Kruger had four tackles in his first game for Cleveland on Sunday as the Browns lost to Miami. Cleveland, which has lost 14 of its past 15 home openers, has lost its last 10 games to the Ravens.
He had 15 1/2 sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries with the Ravens, who lost 49-27 at Denver in their first game on Sept. 5.
“He has been outstanding for us,” first-year Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski said of Kruger. “He wants to be a complete player. He has been great for us.”
The Ravens used Kruger on the defensive line and at outside linebacker during his four seasons in Baltimore. His performance was uneven, though he did come up with some big plays, including a key interception that helped set up a win against the rival Steelers in 2009.
On Sunday, Kruger will try to shut down running back Ray Rice and Baltimore 6-foot-6 quarterback Joe Flacco, who put his critics aside last year as he led the Ravens to their Super Bowl title.
“I am going to be pretty focused. They have so many weapons. They have a good offensive line,” said Kruger, a native of Rexburg, Idaho. “Ray Rice is obviously a key. They have a lot of deep threats. We have to play a good, solid 60 minutes. Joe, he’s a big guy. He’s a big target.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens will have to contend with Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron, a former college basketball player at BYU and USC, who had nine catches against Miami. “He is a big-time target for a quarterback,” said James Ihedigbo, a defensive back for Baltimore. Cameron’s grandfather, Jack Cravens, played baseball and basketball at BYU from 1957-59.