Kindle participates in first practice as a Raven

A little over a year after fracturing his skull, linebacker Sergio Kindle tossed on a Ravens jersey today and took part in his first practice as a professional football player.

Kindle, the Ravens’ top draft pick in 2010, missed his entire rookie season after falling down a flight of stairs, and because of the severity of his injury, it was unclear whether he would ever be able to step foot on a football field again.

Today, not only did Kindle participate in practice, but he took part in the full complement of drills, even those that contained light contact. Kindle was in during full team portions of practice, and took on padded mats with the force of a player completely confident in his health.

“I think it’s great for him as a person,” head coach John Harbaugh said after the Ravens’ first practice of training camp. “That’s the number one thing, to see what he’s overcome to be out there. He looked good. Obviously it’s one step, but I’m just happy for him.

“He had joy written all over his face. He was even smiling during the conditioning test he was so happy to be here, and he practiced well, so it’s going to be fun to see how he progresses. We’ve got high hopes for him right now.”

Kindle spent the latter portion of last season claiming that he was making progress in his rehab and would be ready to play in 2011. The Ravens were understandably not so confident, and took a cautious approach with Kindle both behind closed doors and publicly.

The 23-year-old linebacker finally was medically cleared to participate in drills this offseason, and a giant grin could be seen through his facemask after reps.

“To see him out there running around and to see the smile on his face, just to be back on a football field, there’s just nothing more rewarding just being around him,” linebacker Ray Lewis said.

While Kindle returned to the field today, I’d continue to caution fans not to expect too much from him this season. Kindle still has a long way to go from a physical standpoint, and in many ways, despite spending time around the team last season, he still carries a rookie status.

Kindle might turn out to be the pass rushing force that the Ravens thought they were getting when they selected him in the second round last year. He also might not ever reach that level. But seeing him back on the field in Owings Mills this afternoon with a helmet shielding his formerly broken skull was certainly a start.

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