Despite the enormous setback that linebacker Sergio Kindle suffered last year when he fractured his skull, causing him to miss his entire rookie season, a number of fans are wondering why the Ravens' outside linebacker has yet to see the field through three games this season.
It's far from an unfair question, especially when you're talking about a guy that was the Ravens' top draft pick in 2010 and was thought to be one of the more talented pure pass rushers to come out of college two Aprils ago.
Yesterday, head coach John Harbaugh was asked when Kindle might get a chance to be among the Ravens' 46 active players on gameday. Harbaugh delivered an answer which might come off sounding a little harsh, but makes it clear what the bottom line is to coaches and those in personnel roles in the NFL.
"If you're not dressing, it's because you're not good enough yet," Harbaugh said. "That's a fact. I hate to say it that way, but I think if someone got hurt and he dressed, he'd have the chance to prove himself. But the fact is, there are better players right now. So we dress the best players. You can only have so many DBs and so many linebackers and so many defensive linemen. It's a very competitive deal. The better a team, the more depth you have. The more healthy you stay, the tougher it is for guys. OK, that's the harsh reality.
"The other side of the coin is Sergio is young, he's talented, he works hard and he wants to be a good player. So his challenge is that, when his opportunity comes, he needs to be ready. That's what he's working for right now. It could be this week. It could be five weeks. It could be 10 weeks. We really don't know."
For now, all Kindle can do is try and improve on the practice field and get better each and every day. He's the lone guy on the Ravens' roster who has yet to be active for at least one game this season, so he's not getting a chance to show his stuff on Sundays, but four days a week, he has the opportunity to show that he's learning during practice sessions.
If he's able to make strides in that area, the coaches will notice. And that's when, Harbaugh says, guys like Kindle can force their way onto the field on gamedays.
"Sometimes, I think, people wonder, 'Why is this guy playing and why is that guy not playing?' Well, a lot of it is what you see in practice," Harbaugh said. "You see a lot of things in practice; it's not like baseball or basketball or hockey where you play all these games and you really get a chance to develop and grow young players in the games. You really don't get a chance to do that in football.
"There are only 16 opportunities, but we have lots of practices. And that's where you see guys make the little steps towards those kinds of things."