I have been rooting for Sergio Kindle for a huge comeback from his adolescent mistakes and ensuing medical condition of narcolepsy for a while now...
Sergio Kindle, 6-3, 250, DE/OLB, second year out of Texas following a devastating skull fracture suffered prior to signing his original contract with the Ravens last season... a work in progress that may not be allowed the luxury of time to develop...
The first official activity of the NFL offseason got underway on Monday, as teams across the league began their voluntary conditioning programs. The start of the Ravens’ program in Owings Mills brought back an impressive number of players, more than 40 by our own unofficial count, as they looked to take advantage of having a full offseason.
“It’s good to see the guys and to come back and refresh yourself,” fullback Vonta Leach said. “It is leadership, too.”
Some of the offensive players participating in the workouts included quarterback Joe Flacco, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, fullback Vonta Leach, wide receivers Torrey Smith, David Reed, Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams, running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry, and linemen Michael Oher and Jah Reid.
Flacco chose to attend the workouts despite being in the middle of long-term contract negotiations with the Ravens. He is entering the final year of his contract and the hope was to get a new deal in place before the season starts. “I wanted to come, just see the guys and throw the ball around a little bit,” Flacco said.
Traditionally, the offseason program is most often attended by younger players or those in the midst of a position battle. That is the case for Allen and Berry, who are hoping to replace retired Ricky Williams as the team’s No. 2 running back. Reed, Doss and Williams are also expected to battle for the third wide receiver spot, after veteran Lee Evans was cut after the season.
Jah Reid is attending the workouts with the hope to compete for the starting left guard spot that opened up when Ben Grubbs went to New Orleans in free agency. For players entering their second and third seasons, this is their first taste of the offseason program because last year’s lockout prohibited them from working out at the facility. But it’s not just younger players in attendance, as Leach showed up after his Pro Bowl campaign to show the younger players the importance of the staying in shape during the offseason.
“I’m the veteran of the group, so to come here and show the young guys that are in the backfield, who are in the running back position, you’ve got to keep working out,” Leach said.
Defensively, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Corey Graham, and Danny Gorrer, safeties Bernard Pollard and Sean Considine, linebackers Jameel McClain, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan, and defensive lineman Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee are all in attendance.
Several of the defensive players in attendance are expected to battle for starting jobs, as Kruger, Kindle and McClellan are all vying to replace departed outside linebacker Jarret Johnson.
Kruger is hoping to build on a breakout 2011 campaign and Kindle is looking to find his stride after a head injury slowed his development during his first two seasons. The coaches have repeatedly stated that getting Kindle involved in the offseason program will go a long way to determining how he has progressed.
Smith is coming into the offseason hoping to compete for one of the starting cornerback spots with Cary Williams, who is reportedly not participating. The Ravens extended a second-round tender to Williams but are currently negotiating a long-term deal with his agent.
Williams reportedly obtained a waiver to participate, but is still recovering from offseason hip surgery in Tennessee.
Webb’s arrival in Baltimore also came with a new contract, as he signed a six-year deal earlier this month. This is his first time to participate in a full offseason program and he wanted to show that he’s still ready to work, even after signing a new deal.
“I want to be a leader in this locker room,” Webb said. “It’s my first time, so I want to be part of it. Also, I want to show these guys that I’m here to work, too, that I’m trying to grind.”
Kicker Billy Cundiff, punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox are also participating.
The program includes weight lifting, conditioning exercises and limited team meetings.
A number of the rules about offseason programs have changed under the collective bargaining agreement that was signed before last season, so the interaction between players and coaches is limited.
“I just like being back in the facility,” Oher said. “You got everything here that you need. This is a great facility and it’s good to get in shape and work out with guys like this that you know are going to get you better.”
According to multiple reports, running back Ray Rice is not attending the voluntary activities, as he is also unsigned. As workouts got underway this morning, Rice tweeted, “To all college athletes getting ready to enter the NFL just remember the business side of the league is rough #fact.”
The mandatory offseason workouts don’t begin until later this summer, and it’s not uncommon for veteran players to work out in their hometowns on their own, rather than reporting to the facility at this point.
For Sergio Kindle, all is not lost yet. Showing up for these voluntary OTA's is a sign of Kindle's willingness to make it in the NFL. But with such a huge legacy of Kindle's perceived failings to be prepared medically, mentally and emotionally to make the transition from glorified amateur player to reliable professional, it is a big deal challenge for Kindle to rise above his past reputation. Kindle has the biggest case to prove among all the enthusiastic young guys. He's got to remove all doubt among his coaches and peers that he's physically sound and ready to make the next step. He's got to prove that he is not and never will be a wasted roster spot. That is some serious OTA pressure on a guy.