OWINGS MILLS — Months after fracturing his skull when he fell down two flights of stairs, Sergio Kindle was back at the Baltimore Ravens’ training complex Friday after signing his one-year contract.
Still not cleared to play football and assigned to the reserve non-football injury list, Kindle rejoined his teammates at meetings and broke the huddle with them..
Although Kindle is extremely optimistic that he’ll play again, his future remains uncertain as neurological tests have determined that his balance and reactions aren’t back to normal after suffering one-inch gash in his head when he had his accident in late July.
Kindle, though, is convinced that he’ll resume his career next season.
When asked how certain he is that he’ll eventually be medically cleared, Kindle replied: "150 percent."
The second-round draft pick signed a standard rookie contract for $320,000 instead of the typical big signing bonus for a player with his draft status, a sign that the Ravens aren’t certain that Kindle will be able to regain his old form.
"In my opinion, I know for sure I’d be able to play again," Kindle said. "With the injury, it did knock off my balance. We did reaction testing, and I’m not sure how that works because I’m not a doctor.
"I think I’d do better with physical reactions more so than question reaction testing. If we were to do it all over again, I’m pretty sure I would do better."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that it may be some time before the team knows if the second-round draft pick will make it back on the field.
For now, the former University of Texas star will be limited to weightlifting, non-contact football drills and meetings.
"It’s going to take a while," Harbaugh said. "I’m looking forward to seeing how he does. I think that’s the main thing it’s the physical things like that balance reactions stuff that would be brain-related. It’s going to be a process of getting back on track. I’m sure for a normal person he’s probably fine, but when you talk about playing football he’s not there."
Kindle displayed some hesitancy during the interview. He didn’t seem to always identify who was asking him a question.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder told teammates that he’ll be their biggest cheerleader.
The former All-Big 12 pass rusher fell in the dark at a friend’s house in Austin, Texas and was hospitalized days before training camp for nearly two weeks at University Medical Center Brackenridge before being transferred to a rehab hospital in his hometown of Dallas. Kindle has previously told the 24×7 that he wasn’t drinking alcohol that night.
"Basically, all I had to do was turn the lights on," Kindle said. "I’m trying to walk out the bathroom and I’m supposed to turn right and instead of turning right I went straight. All I had to do was turn the lights on and find my way. I basically blindly walked into a stairwell. When I first made contact with my head, I don’t remember anything after that. I don’t know what happened."
Kindle declined to specify who he was with at the time of the injury.
"I’d rather not tell who they are," he said.
Kindle said he woke up in the hospital and attempted to leave immediately.
"Being not in my right mind I was trying to leave," he said. "I didn’t ask no questions. I was more so upset about being in that situation. My first question was will I be able to walk or get up and be healthy again, will I be able to play football again. They said yeah, but they didn’t put a timetable on when. Based on my recovery, I know for sure I’ll be able to play again."
Kindle said he was diagnosed with narcolepsy, the sleeping disorder, four years ago. He takes medication daily for that condition.
"I have no idea if that had anything to do with it," he said. "I doubt that it did."
Kindle has dealt with off-field adversity before, including a driving while under the influence arrest, bar fights and crashing his car into an apartment building while texting as he drove down the road.
"This is a wakeup call for me," Kindle said. "I’ve made poor decisions in my day, but I can honestly say this one happened for a reason. I’m glad it did because I learned from it and it opened my eyes to see things in a bigger picture than what I was. I’m a better person for it today."
Kindle was initially due a signing bonus in excess of $1.7 million under the NFL slotting system, but instead received a much smaller contract with the Ravens holding exclusive rights for him for the next three or four years.
He said he’s not disappointed about the financial losses.
"Nah, it’s just good to be here," Kindle said. "I could still be sitting at home but I’m here with my guys in the black and purple. That’s the big picture, in my opinion. When the time comes, I’m pretty sure I’ll play my way into whatever. Right now, I’m happy for what I got. The good thing is that I’m still here today. I was blessed to make it through that and get a second chance."
Before heading down the hall to the weight room, Kindle was reminded about his bold Rookie of the Year prediction in April minutes after the Ravens made him their top draft pick.
"If I don’t get on the field, I’m not a rookie," he said. "When I do get on the field, I’m working towards that goal again."