Ravens draft gritty Utah pass rusher

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens continued their rich tradition of acquiring hybrid pass rushers, drafting gritty University of Utah defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger in the second round Saturday night.

A potential left defensive end candidate down the road with the frame to gain more weight and the athleticism to immediately line up as an outside linebacker, the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder has a unique medical background that probably had a negative effect on his draft stock.

Kruger has just one kidney after losing one when a Jeep Wrangler rolled and landed on him when he was 13 years old. He also has no spleen.

Kruger survived a brutal gang attack in college two years ago where he was stabbed multiple times and underwent a five-hour operation where doctors removed portions of his intestines and stomach and repaired a chipped rib, a nicked artery and a collapsed lung.

It took almost 50 staples to close the incisions following the life-threatening episode.

"I'm 100 percent healthy," Kruger said during a conference call. "It has never affected me in football in any way I know teams were a little concerned about me, but, to me, it's just another scar on my body. I only have one kidney

"I've experienced some traumatic things, but I've played through them for years. It's disappointing that people would think of me like that. I can't express how grateful and happy I am to be coming to Baltimore and be on such a powerful team."

Kruger left school after his redshirt sophomore year because he's older than most rookies at age 23 after spending two years on an LDS Church domestic mission in Kansas City. He recorded 7 1/2 sacks and 16 1/2 tackles for losses last season.

"I bring a lot of energy and a lot of heart," Kruger said. "I'm a guy who loves to play with emotion and I think that's one of the major things I think I can contribute is a lot of effort and a lot of intensity. I feel like I'm talented and strong and I have all the physical attributes."

The Ravens love Kruger's pass-rushing ability and heart, labeling him as a red-star prospect for his character, athletic ability and intelligence.

"He's a tough guy, a tenacious guy, he's got a great motor," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "We love tough football players on defense, and he fits the bill. He's a guy we really like."

Team officials looked carefully into Kruger's medical history and are confident that he'll be fine.

"Our doctors had a comfort level with him," DeCosta said. "There have been many players who have played with one kidney. We've got the best trainers in the NFL and they have a comfort level with him. For us, it's not really an issue."

Kruger also brings some strong intangibles with him to Baltimore.

"I feel like I have my head on straight," Kruger said. "You're not going to have any issues with me off the field kind of stuff. I definitely bring some maturity and some focus."

After drafting Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher in the first round to protect quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens picked up Kruger to chase down Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Kruger registered 10 1/2 career sacks and 24 tackles for losses in 26 career games.

"The game is won with our ability to protect the quarterback and sack the quarterback," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I think we have been able to attack both of those areas. ... We think he has a big-time ceiling because he's going to get bigger.

"So, he's a guy who can play anywhere from an outside linebacker to a defensive end over the course of the next three years. I saw what he did to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, so I had that in my mind."

Meanwhile, Newsome noted that he had offers from teams to trade out of the second round to stockpile picks in this year's draft and next year's draft.

Newsome said there were no discussions held about trading his second-round draft pick for an NFL player. It stayed quiet with Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who hasn't been traded.

"Anytime you can help yourself on the offensive and defensive line, you help your football team," Newsome said. "The game is won in the trenches."


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