Kruger Feeling the Heat

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Now that Terrell Suggs has reported to Ravens training camp with the other veterans, rookie Paul Kruger* *knows he will have to take a back seat.

Kruger had been playing with the first team in Suggs' absence from Baltimore's Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and he definitely impressed while doing so.

Now, the second-round draft pick will start anew climbing the ladder back into playing time. After four strong practices, Kruger is hoping to give the Ravens no choice but to give him minutes.

But, he understands the challenges in front of him.

"I think a lot of it is just going to depend on how well I do in camp and the preseason games," Kruger said. "I definitely want to be involved in every special team I can. I think [I can be] a situational-type player, if not more.

Baltimore defensive coordinator – and former linebackers coach – Greg Mattison has been paying special attention to Kruger. During each training camp practice, he has taken Kruger, Suggs and undrafted free agent William VanDeSteeg aside to offer personal instruction.

With Kruger's skill-set, he could potentially develop into a version of the versatile Suggs.

"I have some amazingly talented players, who are doing awesome things and getting paid a lot of money, in front of me. So, that's definitely going to be a factor. I have a whole line of Pro Bowlers in front of me. So, it's definitely something special to be a part of, but at the same time, it takes some time and some big plays to really get yourself into the mix."

That list includes Suggs, who recently signed a contract that reportedly made him the richest linebacker in the NFL, Trevor Pryce, a four-time Pro Bowler, and even Jarret Johnson, one of the toughest players on the Ravens' roster.

It won't be an easy task.

That doesn't bother Kruger, however. He has never taken the easy road.

Kruger entered the University of Utah as a lanky quarterback. His athleticism, readily displayed in the Wing-T offense he ran in high school, made him well-suited to the spread that Utah utilized. Still, he was unable to make it off the scout team.

"You're not making too many reads," he joked. "You're just faking 97 times before you throw the ball."

Kruger didn't make it any easier when he followed that year with a two-year church mission to Kansas City, Mo.. The footballer knocked on doors throughout the city to spread his Mormon faith.

"I am sure you guys have all seen those guys in white ties, a little goofy looking," Kruger explained. "It's really a special experience because you go out there, and you feel like you're in your own little world because everybody views you differently.

"It's really a time to reflect and decide who you are, and who you want to be. Being in that environment, it was really cool to not only help other people but at the same time, learn a lot about myself and what life is all about."

With a renewed awareness, Kruger came back to football ready to face a new challenge.

The Utah coaches thought he would be better suited to defensive end. Kruger, 6-foot-4, bulked up to 260 pounds and shaped himself into a player that notched 61 tackles and 7.5 sacks his second season back.

The Ravens thought so much of Kruger's tenacity and commitment, they used the 57th-overall selection on him as an investment in the future of their defense.

"That's definitely something you're aware of the first day you get here. Play like a Raven. Go full speed every play," he said. "That's really what makes this team what it is, in my opinion, especially the defense."

Even though he is just a rookie, even though he is behind such a star-studded cast of characters, Kruger is feeling those lofty expectations.

"There is still so much pressure, and you're still expected to be a great player and live up to your potential. So, I think I'm definitely still expected to perform at a high level." 

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