Ravens Q&A: Kruger's patience pays off in breakout year

Second round pick didn't see much playing time his first two seasons

November 15, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, we bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player, coach or team executive to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is outside linebacker Paul Kruger.

You've been on a pretty nice run with 4½ sacks in the last four games. What has been the key to your success this season?

Just applying what I've been learning the past couple years. I've worked hard in practice, and I'm just taking advantage of the reps that I get.

Did you ever doubt yourself?

No. I was confident I could go out there and make some things happen. I was just biding my time to get in there and make some plays. I'm appreciative of the time I've gotten.

After all the work you put into the offseason switching from defensive end back to your familiar position, how satisfying is it to see these results?

Yeah, it feels good. It's rewarding. You practice every day, you come here and work hard to accomplish something, and it feels pretty good to get on the field make some plays and see the fruits of your labor.

You didn't get as much playing time in your first two seasons in the NFL. How difficult was it to avoid becoming frustrated?

For me, it was just about being patient and understanding that there were things that I needed to improve on. I'm just happy that we're at the point where we are now. So I just look at the first two years as a learning experience. It helped me out.

With that in mind, do you sympathize for someone like fellow outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, who has been a game day scratch in eight of the team's nine games this season?

Oh yeah. Sergio's a great player. He's going to be a great player in the NFL someday, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's this year or next year for him. The sky's the limit for that guy.

Have you given him any advice about dealing with the inactivity?

Yeah. We don't talk on a regular basis, but there have been times when we've had those conversations. I tell him to keep his head up, to keep working hard. I just try to get his confidence up and keep him positive.

Your speed off the edges has been described as your best asset as a pass rusher. Do you agree with that assessment?

I don't know. I guess I have speed and some of the moves that [outside linebackers] coach [Ted] Monachino has taught me to develop.

You've mentioned in the past Ted Monachino's influence on you. How has his coaching impacted you?

Honestly, I think the biggest thing that he has brought into my life as a player is the confidence and respect. He's come in and treated me like a man, the way that I feel like coaches should treat players. That was a big help. And he has taught me so many things. I couldn't even begin to tell you all the things he's taught me. Focusing on the pass rush was something that he brought to the defense, and I just credit him all the way because he's really kind of game.

Which of your teammates has been the most influential in your young career?

There have been so many guys. Double-J [outside linebacker Jarret Johnson] has been there for me every step of the way. He's been a friend and a mentor and somebody that I can go to for advice. [Defensive end] Trevor Pryce, when he was here, was a cool guy to be around. He was just a day-to-day confidence booster. [Outside linebacker Terrell] Suggs, I've watched how he works and how he plays in the games. So I've learned a lot from him — what he does and what makes him so effective. He's such a great player that I'd be foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity to watch how he plays.

Terrell Suggs has collected sacks and now interceptions this season. Is an interception the next step for you?

Yeah, but you just want to make as many plays as you can. If an interception came my way, that would be awesome. I'd love to get an interception.

Who is the toughest blocker you've faced?

I think the Steelers players are really good. They're just tall and wide on both sides. [Max] Starks and [Marcus] Gilbert, they're pretty good.

When the Ravens drafted you in the second round in 2009, there was a lot of expectations. Was that a lot of pressure to deal with?

I think there was a lot of pressure, but I think there is for every player who comes into this building. Everyone is expected to perform at a high level, everyone is expected to make plays. So there was that pressure on me, but I wouldn't say that it was just on me. I definitely felt that, and I knew it was disappointing for people not to see me on the field, but the thing I'll say is that I'm my own worst critic. I put more pressure on myself than anyone could imagine and even though others may not see that, I'm extremely competitive. I hate the thought of not performing and doing what I know I can do.

You began a foundation in the offseason. What are the foundation's goals?

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