September 23, 2010
By David Driver
For the Deseret News
Used with permission
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Paul Kruger wore a blue T-shirt Wednesday that read: "Play Like a Champion. Baltimore smash mouth football." The slogan pays homage to the defense of the Baltimore Ravens, which annually ranks among the best in the NFL behind anchor and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
But Kruger, 24, a defensive end in his second NFL year out of the University of Utah, has yet to contribute to that defense in regular-season play in 2010. A graduate of Timpanagos High, Kruger injured his left shoulder in the final preseason game against the Rams.
"There is no tear but a lot of inflammation. It is hard to tell how long the recovery will take," Kruger said Wednesday, after a Ravens morning practice session in suburban Baltimore County. "It is a waiting game and trying to do everything you can to get it better."
"It is pretty disappointing. I was pretty excited about starting the season the right way," added Kruger, who is doing rehab work three or four times a day. "But that is football and that is how it goes."
The Ravens, 1-1 overall, play host to Cleveland on Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT in the home opener for Baltimore. When does Kruger hope to return to action?
"Hopefully in the next couple of weeks. If not this week then next," he said. "I am doing everything that everyone else is. I was out there practicing this week. I am just as busy as every other guy. Come game time I am more of a support-type guy."
Off the field Kruger, listed at 6-foot-4, 268 pounds, said he has adapted to life in the NFL as he begins his second pro season.
"I feel extremely comfortable," he said. "If you are mature and know how to handle yourself this is the best situation to be in. A lot of guys get caught up in different things (as a pro). You don't need to go crazy" and make poor decisions.
Kruger has been able to watch firsthand as rookie Dennis Pitta, drafted in the fourth round last spring out of BYU, has adjusted to the NFL with the Ravens. "He has extremely good hands," Kruger said of Pitta, who has played in both games and has one catch for 1 yard. Todd Heap, the team's top tight end, has 10 catches in the first two games and rookie tight end Ed Dickson, out of Oregon, has one catch.
Backup quarterback John Beck, a former BYU standout and a teammate of Kruger's last year with the Ravens, was traded in the preseason to the Washington Redskins.
"I am excited to see him be in a situation that will benefit him the most," Kruger said. "It does (stink) to see guys get traded and all of that. John felt like it was a good fit for him (with the Redskins) so I am happy for him."
A two-year starter at Utah, Kruger declared for the NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He played quarterback in high school but switched to defense in college after his two-year LDS mission in Kansas City from 2005-06. He had 124 tackles in his college career and helped the Utes to a record of 13-0 and a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama during the 2008 season.
Other players with the Ravens with ties to Utah include All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (Highland High) and rookie wide receiver David Reed, taken in the fifth round out of Utah by the Ravens in the last draft. Defensive tackle Kelly Talavou (Utah) is on the reserve/injured list. Ngata has 12 tackles in the first two games.