WESTMINSTER, Md – Make no mistake about it. John Harbaugh may have offered the news in a calm manner; but it is by no means a non-issue.
With rookie LB Sergio Kindle out for all of Training Camp while recovering from a fractured skull and related swelling, the Baltimore Ravens are a worse team on the first day (technically speaking) of the season than they were before it began.
When Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and the decision makers within the Ravens organization decided to trade out of the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft-they did so under the assumption that they could find first round talent in the 2nd round.
With almost no argument, they did just that when they selected the Texas Longhorns LB 43rd overall. Kindle had been expected by many pundits to go within the first 20-25 picks in the Draft; but slid due to question marks about his health and personal character.
Questions about Kindle’s personal character will be asked louder than ever following an accident last week at an Austin, Texas home. Harbaugh said Kindle “got up in the middle of the night and took a wrong turn”, leading him to fall down two flights of stairs. The fall left Kindle at the University Medical Center Breckenridge (where he remains) instead of preparing to take the field at McDaniel College with his teammates.
Kindle will not see the field at McDaniel College at all during Camp, as Harbaugh said the rookie “won’t be able to travel for a few weeks” due to the injury. His status beyond Camp is not yet known; but it is hard to envision a rookie making an immediate impact after missing Training Camp even if he is perfectly healthy.
The nature of last week’s accident will be discussed ad nauseum until Kindle is able to offer a more detailed account of exactly what happened at the “function” he attended. There is certainly a possibility that Kindle woke up in a strange home and thought the bathroom was behind the door where the stairs were actually located. There is also a possibility that alcohol or another substance played a role in the accident itself.
Given Kindle’s off-the-field personal record, it is impossible to ignore such possibilities. Of course, it is equally as irresponsible to work under the assumption until the facts are known.
What is known is that the Ravens hit the practice field without their top rookie-a player they expected could make an impact immediately and help them reach goals like winning the AFC North and reaching the Super Bowl.
The Ravens took a chance and a superb talent despite red flags, and they still believe the decision will pay off despite the limited return they will see early on. Harbaugh said he was “sure (Kindle) will be signed”, and the slotting system for NFL Draft picks will guarantee that Kindle will sign a handsome deal when the parties come to terms-even if the deal doesn’t happen as quickly as was once expected.
Sergio Kindle will (presumably) still have a chance to play this season, and will absolutely still have a chance to make an impact during his career with the Baltimore Ravens. A pre-Training Camp injury before a rookie season does not decide a player’s fate; but it can alter perception.
The Ravens stayed the course by drafting the “best player available” instead of drafting for need, and they will benefit from the fact that Kindle was not even slated to start this season with Jarret Johnson in front of him. However, this team certainly was hoping that Kindle’s presence would benefit their overall pass rush. The Ravens’ defensive unit was third in team defense a season ago allowing just 300 yards per game; but over 2/3 of those yards were given up via the air.
It is BAD news. In fact, it is SIGNIFICANTLY bad news.
It doesn’t ruin the Ravens’ chances of reaching Dallas at the end of the season, but it doesn’t help their chances either.
It’s not the type of news a team wants on the day when the season “begins.”
NOTES: Harbaugh addressed the recent hubbub surrounding Ed Reed; saying he had a “great conversation” with the Pro Bowl safety last week, and Reed “will be playing for (the Ravens) as soon as he possibly can”…Harbaugh also said the Ravens handles game tapes “with care”, but “if Ed needs tape, he’ll get tape”…CB Lardarius Webb (knee), CB Fabian Washington (knee), DT Brandon McKinney (back), DT Haloti Ngata (chest), LB Jarret Johnson (shoulder) and QB’s Joe Flacco & John Beck were amongst the early reporting veterans Monday…Harbaugh said he expected OT Jared Gaither (foot) to report Monday as well