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?
The foundation's goals are benefit the lives of people who have gone through something devastating and has set them back either financially or physically. Last year, we helped a kid named Dale [Lawrence]. He's from Utah, and he broke his neck in a wrestling accident and became a quadriplegic. So the Kruger Care Foundation — at Krugercare.org — we were able to build him a house that was completely wheelchair accessible and had an elevator in it. We raised the money and got a lot of the products for the home donated. So the goals are every year, to help people who have gone through something tough like that.
I imagine you get a lot of applications.
Yeah, we do. The first year was easy, it kind of fell into our laps, and now this year, we're getting so many people responding to it that we're going to have to come up with some sort of system to help us out. I've been in tough situations myself physically and to have people respond and support you, it just means more than you realize. So we're hoping to be that blessing in somebody else's life.
Who filters through the applications while you're playing football?
My family's been doing all of it. My parents – my mother, especially – they're really involved.
How difficult is it to reject applicants who are enduring rough periods when there are other candidates who may be facing even rougher situations?
Absolutely. Last year was the first year. So we're not at the point where we're denying anybody yet, but I think that's going to come within the next couple of years. I'm hoping that we grow enough where we're to the point where we can help many people, but it's going to be tough. It's going to be tough to see people going through real struggles. But maybe as we grow larger and become a part of a network, maybe there's a possibility for other people to help. But we're going to do the most good that we can. We give away every single dime that we make, and it's been pretty special so far.
If you weren't playing football, what would you be doing right now?
At this point, I'd probably be chilling. But my goal is to be a businessman. I want to start a company and operate it on a daily basis. I've thought about going back to school and finishing up. So there are a few options in there, but nothing's 100 percent.
Is the desire to return to school and graduate your own or that of your parents'?
I've been wanting to do that myself. But they have expressed that. I'd like to one day finish school.