After what has seemed like years, and has actually been months, Sergio Kindle FINALLY signed his rookie contract. This news comes almost exactly three weeks after Kindle announced on his Twitter account that he was released from the hospital and returning to the Ravens.
Now, with all the loose ends of the contract taken care of, questions start to be raised about Kindle returning to the field. Obviously he’ll have to get back into the swing of things, with the term “game shape” probably being thrown around hundreds of times in the coming weeks, but when Kindle does return, what will his impact on the team be? That’s what we’re looking at today.
Sergio Kindle was a beast at Texas. One of the best defensive players in the country, quite possibly the best outside linebacker in the nation when he was fully healthy and playing at his best. His main weapon? The pass rush. Whether it was an outside blitz where he exploited some of the slower offensive tackles of the Big 12, or a blitz up the middle where he reverse-pancaked a chunky offensive guard, Kindle was always able to get to the quarterback with relative ease. It won’t be anywhere close to that easy in the NFL. And that’s where missing training camp really hurts Sergio Kindle as he tries to make a speedy recovery.
As painful as it is, the players benefit beyond belief from the two-a-day practices during training camp. Missing it means missing dozens of practices, hundreds of meetings, and hundreds of hours learning what to do to succeed. With Kindle being a rookie, all that is, in essence, doubled. Not only is Kindle learning about this year’s team, he’s also learning all about what it is to be an NFL linebacker, an NFL player, and learning to grow out of his college ways. It’s one thing to be injured on the sideline during training camp, and another to be stuck in a hospital room for the duration.
Now with all this said, Kindle’s role will be extremely limited this season. Being a physical freak, he’ll use the tools that made his name be talked about in first-round circles this Spring to make plays. A player like Ray Lewis combines his incredible talent with an amazing knowledge of his team, other teams, and the NFL game. Kindle will not have have knowledge after missing training camp.
Being a naturally gifted pass rusher, the Ravens will be very ready to have Kindle in the purple and white once the times comes that he’s ready to take the field again. Teamed up with Terrell Suggs and Lewis, the Ravens will have one of the NFL’s most-feared linebackers corps in terms of the pass rush. Kindle will help relieve some of the pass-rushing duties from the shoulders of Jarrett Johnson and Dannell Ellerbe, which will do nothing but help the way the Ravens stop the run.
When all is said and done, Sergio Kindle’s situation is still extremely tricky. He’ll play this year, and when he does, he’ll almost certainly make an impact. The talent he has and the physical gifts he has can assure us of that. The question is whether he can take those a step further, and be a solid every-down linebacker this season. In all honesty, missing training camp may be too big of an obstacle to overcome, making next year a more realistic target for when Kindle can evolve into the special linebacker that Ozzie Newsome and Co. envisioned when they drafted him. Only time will tell.