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The fact that linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger, a second-round draft pick, did not suit up in the Ravens’ 38-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend left some Ravens fans scratching their heads.
Kruger excelled in the preseason as a replacement for Terrell Suggs when the three-time Pro Bowler missed time because of a heel injury. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder displayed a high motor in getting after the quarterback and was solid in coverage.
But as kickoff approached for Sunday’s game, Kruger found out that he was one of the eight players designated as inactive.
In his Monday press conference, head coach John Harbaugh said he had a conversation with a member of that group – while not specifically naming Kruger – and understood how that player felt when he found out he was sidelined.
“Those guys want to play,” Harbaugh said. “When all of the sudden they’re not dressing – there is a sweat suit instead of shoulder pads in their locker – it’s a disappointment. That part of it is hard.”
The decision that comes from the coaches typically 90 minutes prior to kickoff is a weighty one. Learning that a key contributor can or cannot play is critical news for the opposition.
And there is usually much deliberation among an assortment of issues.
“What goes in to it is whoever can do the most for us on Sunday to help us win the game,” continued Harbaugh. “You factor everything in. How many packages are they apart of? Who do they back up? If somebody gets hurt, who’s the next guy and the next guy in? Who can we not live without if somebody gets hurt, or who can’t we live without because somebody can maybe do double duty?
“Then of course, special teams is probably the overriding factor at the bottom of the roster. So, it’s who does the most for you. That’s who is up.”
For Kruger’s part, he was an infrequent contributor on special teams during the preseason, where he did not record a special teams tackle in four games.
Against Kansas City, the Ravens were led by linebacker Prescott Burgess with four special teams tackles, followed by linebacker Antwan Barnes and running back Matt Lawrence, who posted three each.
Also inactive were quarterback John Beck (3rd QB), running back Jalen Parmele, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, tight end L.J. Smith and guard Tony Moll.
However, Ellerbe and Smith had been battling knee and hamstring injuries, respectively, while Moll only joined the team in a cut-day trade on Sept. 5.