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Ravens' Kindle backs off draft-day boast of winning Rookie of Year

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Linebacker Sergio Kindle now realizes that making the jump from college football to the NFL isn't an easy task.

On the day he was drafted in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens, Kindle boasted, "I'm getting Rookie of the Year."

After taking a glance at the Baltimore playbook and receiving a good-natured pop to the helmet from Ray Lewis during the team's minicamp this weekend, the former University of Texas linebacker backed away from his draft-day assertion.

"When I said that, it was just an exciting moment for me, getting drafted. My head was in the clouds," Kindle said. "First of all, you've got to learn the playbook, get on the field and then perform well to get Rookie of the Year.

"It will be a good goal for me to set for myself to try to strive to, but I've got to take it one step at a time. So if you can copy, paste and delete that, that would be nice."

Drafted 43rd overall, Kindle certainly has the potential for greatness. He had 168 tackles and 16.5 sacks in four seasons with the Longhorns and helped them advance to the BCS title game against Alabama in January.

Kindle was projected by many to be a first-round pick, but questions about a knee injury contributed to his drop. Without being asked, Kindle insisted at his first NFL minicamp that the knee isn't an issue.

"My body felt good. No knee issues," he said.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder did, however, acknowledge that the pace of coach John Harbaugh's practices were enough to make his head ache.

"The tempo out here was about 10 times faster than college, especially when they were throwing plays at you like bullets," Kindle said. "First of all, you've got to slow down your head spinning. Then you have to make your legs run as fast as your head is going, and you're just crashing."

Kindle did well enough to receive a congratulatory bump from Lewis, who plays linebacker as well as anyone in the league.

"When he was coming out to the field and he slapped me on my head, he almost gave me a concussion," Kindle said. "That's when I knew he was intense 100 percent of the time when he's on this green grass. That's what I love about him."

The rookie already has made a favorable impression on Lewis, who was in New York to announce Kindle as Baltimore's first pick in the 2010 draft.

"I just think he's a great kid. I told him that when I got ready to call his name at the draft," Lewis said. "I watched him in college. I like his fire, the way he plays the game. Just to see the way he runs around now."

If Kindle needs a mentor, he need look no farther than the middle of the Ravens' defensive huddle.

"The bottom line is, whatever you need off the field, then let's figure it out," Lewis said. "Let's stay after late if we've got to stay after (practice). Come over to my house. Whatever we've got to do, we'll figure it out."

They might want to start with the playbook, which Kindle said he studied until nearly midnight before the first minicamp practice Friday.

"I wanted to study more," he said, "but I needed at least five hours of sleep coming into the day."

Kindle hopes to improve a pass rush that was anything but spectacular last season.

"He can get off the ball. Very active; obviously an athletic kid," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He should be able to help us out."

Notes: OT Jared Gaither didn't practice Saturday, one day after being shifted to the right side. Oneil Cousins took the first-team snaps in his place. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Gather was in the training room being treated for a variety of injuries. ... Also, OT Ramon Harewood, Baltimore's sixth-round pick, was carted off the field with a right knee injury. He described it as tissue damage and predicted he'd be back in 3 to 4 weeks.

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