The reporter was dancing around the issue, trying to find a nice way to ask Ravens linebacker Sergio Kindle if he really needed to establish himself as an NFL player in 2012.
You mean, is this a make or break year for me? Yeah, I havent proven anything yet, Kindle said in the locker room after Wednesdays OTA practice in Owings Mills.
It was a brutally honest self-assessment.
Kindle has only played in two games in two years since the Ravens made him the 43rd overall selection in the 2010 draft. A skull fracture incurred in a fall down some stairs almost ended his career, and a subsequent DUI arrest almost exhausted the Ravens patience with him.
But rather than give up, the Ravens have signed him for a third season, hoping his combination of size and speed eventually pays dividends.
The opportunity is there for him, as Terrell Suggs Achilles injury and the departure of Jarret Johnson via free agency have opened up the depth chart at outside linebacker. While Paul Kruger and rookie Courtney Upsahw are expected to start, there are plenty of snaps for the taking, and Kindle is in the mix.
Ive got to make sure I stay focused, stay on top of my plays and perform well in practice. Thats whats going to get me on the field, said Kindle, a pass rush specialist who earned All-Big 12 honors at Texas.
The good news, he said, is he can now go full speed at any and all football activities, as opposed to a year ago, when his training was carefully calibrated in the wake of his head injury.
There was a lot (done) for precautionary reasons, but its no holds barred now, he said. Whatever they put on the bar, Im lifting it.
The bad news is he apparently will always have partial hearing loss in his left ear, which, he admitted is a big deal for a football player.
But the Ravens are working with him, trying to come up with a hearing device that the league would allow him to wear on the field, enabling him to better hear last-second signal changes before the ball is snapped.
Its up in the air right now, he said of the device.
Meanwhile, he has seriously curtained his late-night lifestyle in the wake of his DUI, he said. He doesnt own a car and isnt renting an apartment.
Im stronger, smarter, wiser, a better decision-maker, he said. I dont have a car. I dont have a place, I choose not to, just so I dont put myself in bad situations, especially with the chance to play being a lot greater this year.
So what is his post-practice regimen now?
Go to the hotel, nap, get up, study, eat, watch some (NBA) basketball, watch some Family Guy, go to bed, Kindle said.
He was an ebullient sackmaster coming out of college, but two humbling years of setbacks have taught him humility.
Im going to let my play on the field do the talking, he said.