Ravens not getting much from rookie class

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- First, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle tumbled down two flights of stairs and fractured his skull. Then, big nose guard Terrence Cody tore his lateral meniscus late in the preseason and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.

This obviously isn't what the Baltimore Ravens envisioned from the top two draft picks of their rookie class in April when they manufactured a haul that was lauded by analysts with a consensus of A and B-plus grades and the envy of other teams.

To say it's been a quiet start for the Ravens' rookies, especially their pair of second-round draft picks, would be a gross understatement. To say the Ravens are dissatisfied and discouraged would be overstating the situation. "I think they're developing," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "When you have a really good football team like we have, you're probably not going to get as much out of your rookie class as much as some teams are. And that's a good thing. I think that's a good problem to have."

Kindle is out for the season. Signed to a one-year, $320,000 contract, the former University of Texas star is on the non-football injury list. Kindle said his reactions and balance have improved markedly as he continues to work out at the Ravens' training complex.

"It's going real well," Kindle said. "I'm just glad to be back up here with my guys and be a part of the team atmosphere. I do everything with the team besides practice. I attend meetings. I lift weights. I run, do cardio with the strength staff. When they do practice, I'm out there getting mental reps. I'm watching." Kindle once dreamed of earning Rookie of the Year honors. Now, he's hoping to return in time for offseason minicamps with his rookie season ruined by a late July accident. There are no guarantees that Kindle will play again, but he says he's making progress neurologically.

"That was my whole thing, since I wasn't going to be able to play, I wanted to be around the fellas," Kindle said. "I wanted to be around the team atmosphere. It's been good. The guys took me in once again with open arms." All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis has seen a strong attitude from Kindle. "I think when you do watch Sergio, what you do see is he really misses it like he really wants to be out there," Lewis said. "He was even out there messing around wanting to practice, wanting to do walkthroughs, wanting to do all those things. I always try to encourage him with some type of just a good word, a good vibe, telling him, 'Everything happens for a reason. Trust me when I tell you that.'

"And I think he gets it. He gets it as a young kid. Hopefully, he can come back and play. Hopefully, that head injury goes away and that young kid can come back play because he's a great talent. Great talent."

A former consensus All-American at Alabama, Cody has seen extremely limited playing time. The 6-foot-4, 349-pounder missed the first three games of the season due to his knee injury. He was credited with one tackle against the Buffalo Bills, an assist for the first of his NFL career.

"Terrence Cody, he's done a nice job," Harbaugh said. "He's got to continue to work, I'd say, two things: Pad level and shedding blocks quickly so he can make more plays between tackle and tackle. But he's got all the ability in the world. He plays hard, he practices hard. He's going to be a good player." Cody has battled weight problems and failed the conditioning test to open training camp. Since that point, he has gotten in better shape. The knee problem has curtailed his progression. He's just now starting to get more playing time in the Ravens' defensive line rotation.

"I feel that the knee kind of slowed me down," Cody said. "If not for that, I would have played a lot more. It's a learning experience. I'm staying positive because I know that my time is going to come. It's not right now, but when my name gets called, I'll be ready. "I'm just staying positive. I wouldn't say it's been tough. I'm not thinking negative. I've never been negative. I'm staying positive about the whole situation." Although Cody's statistics are nothing to write home about, the Ravens are convinced that he has a promising future. During Cody's two-year tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide never allowed an opposing rusher to gain 100 yards.

"Big T.C., that's the big baby of the bunch right now that has all the gifts," Lewis said. "We've just got to start turning him loose a little bit, have fun with him. And he's really settling in already, which is a good thing. "Nine times out of 10 when any player that has that type of talent starts to settle in, the next thing that comes he starts to build confidence and confidence and confidence. You see what he did at Alabama. Now coming here, I just think his upside is great." One reason Cody hasn't played more is the development of defensive end Brandon McKinney, who has similar size at 6-4, 360 pounds. McKinney beat out Cory Redding for a starting defensive end job.

And Cody is also playing behind Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg.

"There's just a lot of depth right now that we do have on the defensive line and at the linebacker position," Lewis said. "I just think what he's coming in to do, I think he's really progressed way past his time." Third-round tight end Ed Dickson is the most promising of the Ravens' draft picks. The former Oregon standout has caught four passes for 87 yards. His 58-yard catch over safety Brian Dawkins against the Denver Broncos is the longest play the Ravens have generated all season.

Fourth-round tight end Dennis Pitta has caught one pass for one yard.

Both are expected to see more playing time now that two-time Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap is dealing with a right shoulder stinger.

"The two tight ends, I think we need to get those guys in there more and more," Harbaugh said. "We want to continue to balance out the numbers a little bit with those two young tight ends. So, I think you'll see more and more of those guys as the season goes on."

Sixth-round offensive tackle Ramon Harewood is on injured reserve and recently underwent surgeries on both knees. He was solid during the preseason.

Fifth-round defensive tackle Arthur Jones has been a fixture on the inactive list on gamedays, so the jury remains out on his capabilities.

Fifth-round wide receiver David Reed has contributed in kick coverage on special teams, but has yet to catch a pass.

He ranks second on the team in special-teams tackles with five stops, forcing one fumble.

He's behind three former Pro Bowl selections in Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh as well as Donte' Stallworth, who's about to return from a broken foot.

A potential special-teams role on kickoff returns could be in the offing for Reed soon with the return game struggling.

"David Reed has had a big impact on special teams," Harbaugh said. "I think his impact will only grow on offense."


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