Newsome optimistic that Kindle will play

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome expressed optimism that outside linebacker Sergio Kindle will eventually play football again after missing his entire rookie season with a fractured skull. The second-round draft pick from the University of Texas fell down two flights of stairs last July, days before the start of training camp.

"Well, Sergio has made a lot of progress from the time he fell down the stairs," Newsome said tonight during a conference call with season ticket holders. "Right now, it's still in medical hands. We are very optimistic that there may be an opportunity for him to get back on the field. When will that happen? We're not sure. We're very optimistic that Sergio will get back on the field at some point."

Newsome's comments echo what coach John Harbaugh said about Kindle earlier this spring. "There's some hope there, there's a chance," Harbaugh said. "I'm more optimistic now than ever before that he has a chance to come back and play. It will just be a matter of seeing how well he does."

Kindle recently visited neurological specialists in Boston and Michigan and said that it went well, but emphasized there was nothing definitive learned about his status.

"I don't know how to describe it exactly in medical terms, but they're very pleased with his progress," Harbaugh said. 'There's a chance he could be cleared to compete in football at some point and time."

Harbaugh was adamant that Kindle has to get medically cleared before the team can begin making any plans for him on the field. Kindle is also subject to the NFL personal conduct policy for his DWI and is due in Howard County District Court on May 18.

If Kindle returns, the Ravens will get a former All-Big 12 pass rusher back on the field. "He'll go out there and compete with everybody else," Harbaugh said. "If he can regain some of that form he had at Texas, here's a guy that's a big, fast, strong, aggressive guy who loves football and can rush the passer, that would be a bonus for us. That's for sure." Earlier this year, Kindle said he feels much better.

"I feel great," Kindle said. "I feel like I'll get that clearance. How I feel about things could be different than what the doctors say. It's up to the doctors. Based on how things are going, I feel like I'll have good results." How will Kindle know if he can withstand the rigors of football?

"The main thing is the actual contact," Kindle said. "There's no way to really evaluate that until you do it. They're going to be looking at the healing of my head and whatnot and my body. It looks like I'll be able to take a hit. My balance is improved by far. "One thing I've done is put a helmet on and banged my head against a wall. I'm careful about how hard I do it. I haven't had any problems. I think I'm ready to hit. I can't wait to play football again."

Kindle has been training in his hometown of Dallas and taking online classes toward his degree.

Kindle works out four times per week, including drills, running and lifting weights at a performance facility run by Michael Johnson, outside of Dallas.

Kindle said he currently weighs roughly 240 pounds. He has been taking online classes toward completing his degree in youth and community studies. He would like to be a coach one day when he's done playing football. "One of my coaches came down and worked me out and I showed him around the facility to show them I'm not going to be slacking off," Kindle said. "When or if I get cleared, I can get back on the field in stride."

The Ravens signed Kindle to a one-year, $320,000 contract last fall that didn't include a signing bonus. They can retain his rights by assigning him an exclusive rights tender. Kindle is looking forward to putting the pending driving under the influence case behind him.

"The main thing is I want to get it over with and figure out what they're going to do," Kindle said. "I don't know how the Maryland law works, but I want to get it behind me and not have to worry about it anymore."

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