Kindle is best known for his pass-rushing ability and his amazing awareness of opposing players on the field. His seamless transition from linebacker to defensive end during the Longhorns’ 2009 season, replacing current Washington Redskins DE Brian Orakpo in the process, turned many heads among NFL scouts and coaches alike.
Kindle reached new heights during his junior year, playing his best football as a Longhorn. In only 11 games, the gifted Kindle managed to gain the respect of coaches throughout college football, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. Kindle’s team-high 10 sacks in his junior campaign helped pave the way for a 2008 All-American honorable mention by Sports Illustrated.
After all, Kindle was widely credited with helping the Longhorns defense rise through the ranks, all the way to No. 1 in the Big 12.
As the 2010 NFL draft was closing in, Kindle began to appear near the top of draft boards across the league. He was considered the best 3-4 linebacker available—someone the Ravens had to have in order to improve the team’s pass-rushing abilities.
Kindle’s bad knee, which required four surgeries by the time he entered the draft, and his off-field issues—a DUI arrest in 2006 that required Kindle to serve community service, but spared him of jail time—still didn’t scare GM Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens away from their linebacker of the future.
Shortly after Kindle was drafted, reports surfaced that Kindle had fallen down two flights of stairs in his home, in complete darkness. The news took a turn for the worse when detailed reports shed more light on the incident. Some reporters placed Kindle at a friend’s house when he took the spill down the flights of stairs in the dark. The inconsistencies in reporting grew, as Kindle changed his own story several times.
Rumors started to gain traction around the NFL community that Kindle was possibly drunk at a party when he fell down the stairs, fracturing his skull.
Kindle later told head coach John Harbaugh that he was at a “function” with friends when the accident took place.
“He got up in the middle of the night, took a wrong turn,” Harbaugh said. “It was pitch black where he was at and couldn’t see where he was going and fell down two flights of steps.”
Kindle would maintain he was sober when the incident occurred.
The details of the incident never truly mattered. Kindle’s head injury was serious, causing him to miss the entire 2010 season. In light of the seriousness of the injury and the possibility Kindle might never step on a football field again, Harbaugh and Newsome stood by their top draft pick, setting a lofty, but attainable goal for Kindle’s return in 2011.
Harbaugh would only speak briefly to the media about the incident, saying, “I know one thing: We’re going to be very careful with that. We’re talking about a head injury playing football. It’s not something we’re going to be in a hurry to mess with.
“If at some point in time he can come back and play, that would be a great bonus for us,” Harbaugh said. “But he’ll have a lot of catching up to do. The main thing right now is his health.”
Even after all of the fanfare surrounding Kindle in early 2010, Harbaugh and Newsome insisted he would be a Raven.
“I’m sure he’ll be signed,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a part of our football team. He’s a Raven. He’ll be here. But the timing of all that, we’ll just have to work all that stuff out.”
Now, after Kindle’s highly publicized DUI arrest back in December of 2010 near Laurel, Maryland, the Ravens have much more on their plate to work with—an athlete who obviously has serious problems with alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately for the team, Kindle was signed to a one-year deal worth $320,000. Kindle would receive a partial salary totaling $282,000 during the 2010 season, but no signing bonus. That is a highly unusual pay structure for a top draft prospect.
It’s possible the Ravens knew more about Kindle’s character flaws than they were willing to lead people to believe.
Kindle will once again avoid jail time after his December DUI arrest, all because of a guilty plea earlier this month. Instead, the former Longhorn received a reprimand and a two-year unsupervised probationary period—an insignificant punishment by a lenient judge.
It’s now time for the Ravens to cut all ties with this troubled young man. If nearly two years in the locker room with LB Ray Lewis can’t set Kindle straight, then no amount of counseling outside the Ravens’ facility will ever yield better results.
As human beings, we tend to believe in redemption and second chances in life. However, when you’re held to a higher standard as an NFL athlete, you only get that one big chance to become a role model for millions of individuals.
The Ravens certainly won’t miss the small amount of money invested in Sergio Kindle. But the search for his replacement could set the team back years, since Harbaugh and Newsome were more worried about rehabilitating an athlete who can’t be rehabilitated at this point in his life—until he hits rock-bottom.
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
Follow Todd on Twitter! Twitter.com/ravens023