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If Kindle does make it back to the practice and playing fields with the Ravens later this summer (or whenever pro football resumes), there is a broad range of possibilities of what could happen next. Pro football teams are notorious for wanting to control as many situations as possible, but Kindle's future is one of those where the Ravens just have to roll the dice and hope for a positive outcome. Their control is limited, at best.
Kindle could a) come back 100 percent and play like he did in Texas, where he was a fierce pass-rush specialist, b) exhibit some rust while offering indications that he could eventually get back to where he was, possibly in a year, c) discover that his injury can't endure contact, at least not now, putting his career in jeopardy, or d) find a niche somewhere in the midst of all those extremes.
That the Ravens are rooting for a full recovery is an understatement. A full-speed Kindle would be a huge difference-maker for them. They recorded their all-time franchise low in sacks in 2010 and wound up addressing other areas of concern in the draft, leaving it to their current players or a free agent signing to amp up their pass rush … or Kindle, truly the X factor.
With 2011 first-round pick **Jimmy Smith** playing at corner, a healthy Kindle lining up opposite **Terrell Suggs** and charging after quarterbacks, and **Terrence Cody** (picked by Newsome as the young Ravens player most likely to have a big season in 2011) helping **Haloti Ngata** fill the interior, the Ravens suddenly would have the injection of youth they badly need on defense as their thirty-something stalwarts age.
But while that's certainly a lovely vision for the fans and team to contemplate, it could also be no more than a fantasy, especially in Kindle's case. With an injury to the brain, unlike to a knee or shoulder, there's just no telling what might happen, good or bad.
In his interview over the weekend, Kindle offered a glimpse of the boyish enthusiasm he exhibited in his first days as a Raven, before he made a mess of things. He said his goal was to get onto SportsCenter.
If he reaches that goal with the Ravens in 2011, they're going to be better on defense than anyone expected, because he brings to the table precisely what they need.
But it's a big, big if.
John Eisenberg *covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.*