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Harbaugh 'more optimistic' about Kindle's return in 2011

Ravens coach John Harbaugh provided his most hopeful outlook on Sergio Kindle, saying the second-round linebacker has a chance to play in 2011.

Harbaugh had previously been guarded about Kindle's future ever since the team's top draft pick from last season fractured his skull by falling down two flights of stairs in July. But Harbaugh's tone was decidedly different when addressing Kindle during a fan forum conference call Wednesday night.

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"I'm more optimistic now than ever before that he has a chance to come back and play," Harbaugh said. "It will just be a matter of seeing how well he does."

The Ravens have consistently received encouraging news about Kindle. Doctors had previously informed the team that his skull has healed, and Kindle's rehab has progressed well.

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Kindle, who missed his entire rookie season, recently met with doctors in Michigan and Boston in an attempt to get cleared for contact. Neither Kindle nor the team would indicate the results of those evaluations.

"There's some hope there," Harbaugh said. "I don't know how to describe it exactly in medical terms, but [doctors are] very pleased with his progress. There's a chance he could be cleared to compete in football at some point and time."

It's not in the Ravens' interest to reveal too much about Kindle's situation, especially if the news was negative. The Ravens don't want to promote a need for a pass rusher as they draw closer to the draft and free agency (whenever the new collective bargaining agreement is reached).

Kindle sustained his head injury just before the start of training camp. He never practiced in a contact practice with the Ravens and it was uncertain whether he would ever get on the field for them.

"He'll go out there and compete with everybody else," Harbaugh said. "If he can regain some of that form he had at Texas – here's a guy that's a big, fast, strong, aggressive guy who loves football and can rush the passer – that would be a bonus for us, that's for sure."

The Ravens, though, did show interest in pass rushers at the NFL combine last month. The team could select a prospect such as Wisconsin's J.J. Watt, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, Miami's Allen Bailey and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan with the 26th overall pick.

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