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Ravens' Kindle suits up after fractured skull ended rookie year

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- It took nearly a year for Sergio Kindle to finally regain his equilibrium, and he still has trouble hearing out of his left ear.

The fractured skull that resulted from his fall down a flight of stairs remains a significant part of Kindle's life. No longer, though, will it prevent him from playing pro football.

Kindle is back on the playing field, running around like a rookie this week at the Baltimore Ravens training camp -- even though he's a second-year player. The team's top draft pick in 2010, Kindle didn't suit up for a single play after his accident in July 2010 -- when he fell in the middle of the night at a friend's house.

A former standout linebacker at Texas, Kindle is eager to make a positive -- albeit belated -- impression on a team that never lost faith in his ability to fully recover from the injury. The Ravens also believed he would bounce back from an embarrassing DUI arrest in December (he pleaded guilty in May and received no jail time).

"I know the organization knows I'm a good guy, a good person, a good teammate," Kindle said Friday. "I feel that mistakes are made by everybody; mine just happened to be detrimental to where I'm at with the Ravens and the organization, putting a bad light on the organization. But that's in the past now, and I'm doing everything necessary to get that out of my mind -- literally. Now it's just football."

It's about time. Kindle was selected in the second round by Baltimore last year and made an impression in offseason workouts. But before he could sign a contract and participate in his first training camp, he took that fateful fall.

He's delighted to be back on the field, but acknowledged that the three-hour workouts have been difficult on his body.

"I had my feelings about coming out for the first time in a year. I was expecting for it to be a great feeling," Kindle said. "But when you haven't done football in so long ... when you do football stuff with your helmet on, it's bad. I had to get my legs back under me. But I'm starting to feel better with every play."

His teammates are happy to have him back, and they're happy for him.

"He's a young kid that has a future, and now he can really go and pursue what he wants to pursue," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "To see him out there running around and to see the smile on his face, just to be back on the football field, there's just nothing more rewarding than being around that right now."

Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata said, "Just seeing him just watching us practice (last year), you felt bad for the kid because you could tell he wanted to be out there so bad. It's great to see him out there and that he's able to be in the helmet and jersey, trying to help us win some games."

Kindle was happy to bang helmets with fellow rookie Jah Reid, a 330-pound offensive tackle. The next test will come Saturday, when Kindle and the Ravens have their first practice in full pads.

Kindle can't wait.

"I'm looking forward to it just to see how things go," he said. "My mindset is to go out there and play like nothing ever happened. That's how you've got to do it because being hesitant or nervous can lead to you not playing well or can lead to an injury."

It was a big day for the Ravens, who had their two top draft picks over the past two years on the field together for the first time. Kindle, picked No. 43 overall in 2010, was joined by cornerback Jimmy Smith, the No. 27 overall pick in 2011.

The addition of Kindle and Smith should help a defense that will be without safety Dawan Landry, who agreed to terms Friday on a five-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Landry played five seasons with Baltimore.

Smith, 22, signed a five-year deal on Friday and ran onto the field to participate in his first NFL workout. He blended in quickly with some players he grew up watching on TV.

"I mean, Ray Lewis was playing in the league when I was 7 years old," Smith said. "I'm kind of past that already. I'm just more about getting on the field and playing some ball."

That's what Kindle was thinking about all last year. It wasn't easy.

"Family helps, and then knowing that the man upstairs blessed me with a second opportunity, maybe a third depending on everything else you think about," Kindle said. "I just feel the sky's the limit now that I've been cleared. It's full speed ahead."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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