OWINGS MILLS — The inventory for Sergio Kindle involves a catastrophic fall, a fractured skull, permanent hearing damage in his left ear, no tackles or sacks and a conviction for driving under the influence.
That isn’t the career track the Baltimore Ravens or Kindle envisioned when the former University of Texas star outside linebacker was drafted in the second round two years ago.
Kindle is still trying to get his bearings in the NFL after a head injury suffered when he fell down two flights of stairs prior to his rookie season.
And that’s why this shapes up as a pivotal time for Kindle, a career crossroads for a former All-Big 12 pass rusher.
"Is this is a make or break year for me?" Kindle said. "Perhaps, always. I feel like that every year. Yeah, I haven’t proven anything yet."
Kindle played in two games last season, but didn’t record any statistics.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder draws high marks for size, speed and aggressiveness, but has yet to establish himself on the Ravens’ tradition-rich defense.
The Ravens want to see what he can do this year as he battles for a roster spot and playing time, and an opportunity beckons as a situational pass rusher given Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs’ partially torn Achilles tendon.
The Ravens have made a modest investment in Kindle contractually, retaining him for this year under a $465,000 exclusive-rights tender that includes no signing bonus.
They didn’t give him a signing bonus when he fractured his skull due to the extent of his injuries, which initially included neurological problems that have subsided.
"I was hungry when I was injured," Kindle said. "With the opportunity to get out on the field, of course it’s different. My thing is, the hunger’s going to be there. It’s now what I do from now until then.
"I just have to make sure I’m focused, stay on top of my plays and perform well in practice. That’s what going to get me on the field."
Kindle acknowledged that the hearing problem is an issue, one that won’t improve.
He said he’s unsure how crowd noise will impact his game. Hand signals help him pick up the calls.
"The hearing hasn’t changed but I’m more acclimated to everything now," Kindle said. "We’re working on something to help deal with that on the field, but it’s in the makings right now.
However, Kindle indicated that the Ravens are trying to get a hearing device that the NFL would allow him to use on the field to allow him to pick up on late changes to the defense after the huddle breaks.
“It’s up in the air right now,” Kindle said. "They’re working on that."
Other than the hearing, Kindle said everything else is fine.
He’s regained his equilibrium that was affected by the accident.
"I’ve been recovered for a year now, but I’m great now," Kindle said. "I was good all of last year, but I had to take precaution coming in. This year, I got my guns blazing. It’s no holds barred. Whatever they put on the bar I’m lifting it."
Although the Ravens have two projected starting outside linebackers in rookie Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger at strongside and rush linebacker, respectively, Kindle is competing for a reserve role with Albert McClellan and Michael McAdoo.
"I’ve got to make sure I stay focused, stay on top of my plays and perform well in practice," Kindle said. "That’s what’s going to get me on the field."
Away from football, Kindle maintains a quiet lifestyle after being convicted of driving under the influence following a December 2010 arrest.
Kindle said he doesn’t have a car and lives in a hotel, where he spends his time taking naps, studying his playbook, eating, watching the NBA playoffs and taking in "Family Guy."
"I’m stronger, smarter, wiser, a better decision-maker," Kindle said. "I don’t have a car. I don’t have a place. I choose not to, just so I don’t put myself in bad situations, especially with the chance of playing being a lot greater this year."
Kindle has a much more subdued personality now after admittedly being something of a wild man in college, including bar fights, a driving under the influence arrest and an incident where he crashed his car into an apartment building because he was texting while driving.
He’s quieter, humble and anxious to prove himself.
I feel that when I get on the field for a substantial amount of time it’ll happen," Kindle said. "I won’t say how eager I am, of course I am, but I’m going to let my play on the field do the talking."