This season is Sergio Kindle's last chance to prove he belongs in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Sergio Kindle was not a lock to make the 53-man roster, at least according to his head coach, John Harbaugh. But roster cuts came and went last week, and Kindle indeed remains a member of the Ravens.
However, if he cannot step up and produce this season, it's likely that 2012 will be his last year in Baltimore. Second and third chances aren't all that common in the NFL, and Kindle's about to use up his last one.
Kindle was the Ravens' 2010 second-round draft pick, but he never took the field in his rookie year after fracturing his skull in a fall that summer. He returned to the team in 2011 with high expectations, but was active for only two games and didn't notch a tackle.
This year provided Kindle with ample opportunities. With Terrell Suggs out for at least part of the season while he recovers from a torn Achilles' tendon and Jarret Johnson departing in free agency, that left two starting linebacker positions open and a short list of Ravens who could ostensibly compete for them.
Three men—Kindle, Paul Kruger and rookie Courtney Upshaw—battled it out throughout the summer for the right to one of those jobs. Kruger secured his early on, while a shoulder injury stymied Upshaw's progress. It seemed as though Kindle could easily make the remaining job his own, if only his play in the preseason could make the proper case.
Unfortunately, Kindle wasn't a preseason standout. In two games, he notched just four tackles. No sacks. No interceptions. No tackles for loss. What saved him was a dearth of outside backers in camp and even fewer standouts, with two positions needing filled.
It's not as though Upshaw has done enough to be the team's starting outside Rush linebacker. As such, the Ravens had to move Albert McClellan from inside to outside to take that job, with Upshaw backing him up. Kindle is behind Kruger as the Ravens' Sam linebacker.
Kindle could potentially get a chance to start this season if McClellan's recent arrest for battery results in a suspension from the league. And if that's the case, he'll need to start racking up tackles and making plays, because if he doesn't, the Ravens will be moving on without him in 2013.
Kindle has a lot of talent and even more potential, and the Ravens are well aware of that, as well as the limitations he's had since his 2010 accident.
But with an expanded role this year, the Ravens will have a far better idea of what he's capable of doing on the field; if it's little more than what he showed in the preseason, then his time will simply be up. That is, unfortunately, the nature of the business.
Kindle needs to use this final chance and make the most of it, because it's the last he'll get in Baltimore.