Kruger Working For Position Change

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During his rookie season, Paul Kruger rarely got on the field as the backup to Terrell Suggs.

The second-round draft pick hopes that will changes this year by potentially switching from outside linebacker to defensive end.

During the Ravens' voluntary conditioning program, Kruger said his aim is to stack 10-15 pounds on his 6-foot-4, 260-pound frame to become more of a force in the trenches.

"I just want to play, and I'll do whatever I have to do to get to that point," Kruger said. "With Suggs, we have one of the best in the league playing there. I think the coaches and myself are trying to find different ways to get me on the field, so hopefully this works.

"A lot of it is going to be gaining weight where I can play defensive end. There's been some talk of that, so we'll see what happens. I need to keep my speed and get stronger, but putting on some weight is going to be a definite goal."

Sitting down in the cafeteria at the Ravens' practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., on Tuesday, the massive salad drenched in fixings and ranch dressing represented only one part of the bulking plan.

"Obviously, I'll be eating. But there will be supplements I'll be taking, and our training program is great," Kruger explained. "I was training for the Combine and had workouts last year. This is all going to be new to me.

"But, I think I'll be able to keep the weight up in my shoulders, in my upper body. I'm not the biggest guy at this point anyway, so I should hold it well. I just have to hit my conditioning hard while I do it. I don't want to slow down, or it will be pointless weight."

Kruger could be moving into the role the Ravens originally envisioned when they selected him. At the time, there was talk of Kruger being groomed to eventually replace Trevor Pryce, 34, along the defensive line, but he fell in behind Suggs.

Adding Kruger's lack of experience on special teams, it was not an easy climb up the depth chart.

When Kruger did play for the Ravens, however, he made things happen. Seeing action in nine games, most notably a three-week stretch where Suggs nursed a knee injury, Kruger tallied 12 tackles and a clutch interception in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We have no disappointment in Paul Kruger whatsoever," head coach John Harbaugh said in January. "Paul Kruger backed up Terrell Suggs this year. He played when Terrell was hurt, and played very well. I think it's hard to say that he's going to get as much playing time as you would like by the fact that he has a great player in front of him.

"He's got to do some things from a special teams perspective, maybe, to be a backup linebacker over some of the other guys. But that's not something he's ever played before. He was a pass-rushing guy in college, and that's not something those guys usually do."

A two-year starter at defensive end for the University of Utah, Kruger tallied 124 tackles, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Clearly, he can produce.

The Ravens now hope Kruger – who was tabbed a "Red Star" player for the scouting department's agreement that he owns all the characteristics of a true Raven – can produce more for their pass rush next year.

Coach Harbaugh has made "pressure" a buzz word this offseason, noting the addition of outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino to a unit that totaled 32 sacks in 2009.

"I'm excited to work with him," Kruger said of coach Monachino. "I talked to him on the phone, and we're going to get down to it soon."

Still, Kruger suspects he will spend time studying with Monachino, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks and coordinator Greg Mattison.

While his versatility will definitely be tested, Kruger is ready to face the challenge.

"My position in college was very similar to the rush position," said Kruger. "But, I'm looking forward to the opportunity in front of me. My offseason is going to be about the pass rush. The coaches have told me that we're going to focus on our pass rush. That's huge and is always going to be a focus for D-linemen, but especially at this point in my career as a young player."

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