A month ago, Ravens defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger was preparing to start opposite reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs.
But in a blink of an eye, little did Kruger know that after Suggs injured his Achilles this month, he would be moving over to replace him.
On Wednesday in our first look at team OTAs, we got to see for the first time Kruger lining up at Suggs’ position in the hopes of being that elite pass-rusher trying to build off a productive, 5.5 sack season from 2011.
Ravens top pick Courtney Upshaw-who many believed would be the understudy to Suggs-lined up at Jarret Johnson’s old “SAM” spot opposite Kruger.
You would think a player with limited playing time and no consistent role over his four years in Baltimore would be nervous about replacing one of the top players on the defensive side of the ball, but think again.
Kruger told WNST on “The Morning Reaction” Thursday that he is ready for the pressure, and that he has been building himself up for this over the last couple weeks.
“You know that’s what I’m working towards,” Kruger said. “I’m excited for the season.”
But Kruger said he would be lying if he said he wasn’t shocked when he heard about the news of his teammate’s unfortunate injury.
“‘There’s no way.. Suggs is one of those guys who doesn’t get hurt and has been consistent through the years and everything’,” Kruger told Forrester and Jones what was going through his head at the time of the announcement.
Kruger appreciated all the support he has received over the last couple of weeks backing him, but he did say that the best thing for him right now is for the off-season to go by quickly-so that he can just hit the football field and execute instead of continuing to worry about filling in for Suggs.
“I have high expectations for myself,” he said. “I’m ready to go…I needed this off-season to get ready but I feel confident and I’m very excited about the opportunity.”
Kruger said since the injury, Suggs has been in constant contact teaching him the ins-and-outs of the position, but Kruger did say that Suggs’ injury wasn’t the precursor to that relationship.
Kruger said Suggs has always been there for him since he became a Baltimore Raven.
“That’s always the relationship we’ve had,” Kruger noted. “I can bounce things off him and he can coach me through things. It’s definitely a good opportunity to have a guy like that behind you.”
That’s one of the reasons why Kruger has fallen off the grid in the last few weeks. He knows he only has so much to time to take in all the learning tools and advice. Eventually, he knows that when Ravens take on the Bengals in Week 1 of the season, Kruger said it’s all going to be on him to go out and perform.
“I think I just have to step up and make it happen and do what I have to do to make the team better,” he said. “But I feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction so I’m pretty pumped about it.”
Kruger admitted that he never wanted to win a position this way at someone’s expense. He always wanted to earn it.
And he still plans on doing so.
“I still feel like I’m fighting for a job,” he said. “Practice feels the same…it might be different when the games start coming around [but] I’m not there yet so I’m still trying to grab that spot. I’m a player that everyone will rely on so I’m still grinding.”
And with that attitude, he knows that the coaches are going to notice that determination and give him the support he deserves.
“I think the coaches at this point trust me and have confidence in me,” Kruger replied. “I’ve been around and I’m excited to get out there and show some things and prove myself again.”
But through it all, if Kruger had his way, he would sacrifice his spot to have Suggs back on the field with him.
“It’s a loss for the team and we are hoping to get him back as soon as we can,” he said.
Thanks to Paul Kruger for joining WNST and will continue to follow him leading up to the 2012 opener! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!