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Arizona Cardinals’ Calais Campbell: ‘If the game was today I feel like I could play’

TEMPE, Ariz. — There’s no doubt the Arizona Cardinals have a better defense when Calais Campbell is on the field, so it stands to reason the team would very much like to have him back for Sunday’s tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Campbell, who has missed the last two games after suffering a strained MCL in Arizona’s loss to the Denver Broncos, practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday and is officially listed as “questionable” for Sunday.

Head coach Bruce Arians called the defensive end a “game-time decision.”

“When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go,” he said, “because there’s nobody quite like him. Even if he’s 90 percent, the energy he brings and just the respect that he brings, you want him on the field.”

Arians said if Campbell is able to play, there will be no restrictions or snap count placed on him. How much Campbell plays would instead be determined by how the player himself feels.

“Is that what he said? He hadn’t told me that yet,” Campbell said Friday. “But I’ll take it. I know that no matter what, I’ll go out there having had the last two weeks off, no matter what my reps won’t be as high. I’ll have to rotate if I’m able to be out there.”

Campbell said it will be important to try as hard as he can while being honest with the coaches and training staff, with his sole focus on doing what is best for the team.

If Campbell is indeed able to play, the Cardinals will be welcoming back a player who has tallied 16 tackles, one sack and one interception this season. Since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2008, the 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end has evolved into one of the most feared defenders in the game, collecting 345 tackles (270 solo) with 37.5 sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

But after so much time off and with a brace on his knee, would he be limited in any way Sunday? He said he’s been told the knee will bother him some for the next eight weeks or so, but that he’s able to do all his moves and feels explosive.

“I guess it depends on what you consider limited, but in my opinion I feel like I can play football and help the team win.”

Campbell added he is not worried about re-injuring the knee or opponents targeting it, saying all he can do is go out and play football. He went hard in practice the last two days to test the knee, and is hoping his “psyche will be there where I don’t have to worry about it and I’ll just be able to play football full speed and help the team win.”

Though he’s not used to wearing it, Campbell said the brace is there only to make sure he does not further injure his knee, and since it’s not too restrictive, he’ll be glad to wear it. And if it helps him get back on the field for a big matchup like this Sunday’s, then you will not hear him complain about it at all.

“This is a game I want to be a part of; this is a huge game,” he said. “The Eagles are a great team and they’re coming into our house, so I mean I feel like that’s a big deal. This is a game that could potentially become a big game in the future, a game that matters when it’s all said and done.

“Any time you play an NFC opponent, especially a good one, you’re fighting for tie-breakers and position and everything else. I don’t want to get too far ahead, but it’s the nature of the business. This is a game that is really going to matter at the end of the year.”

And though no one will really know until Sunday, Campbell is optimistic he will be on the field helping his team try to win it.

“If [the knee] feels the same way on Sunday as it does now, then if it’s up to me I’ll be playing,” he said. “But it’s just one of those things. Hopefully Sunday I’ll come back and I’ll feel like just like I feel now. There’s a possibility of it being different — who knows, I don’t know.

“But if the game was today I feel like I could play.”