Calais Campbell: Decision to leave Cardinals has ‘worked out’
Nov 22, 2017, 10:47 AM | Updated: Nov 23, 2017, 12:01 am
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)
It’s hard to argue the Arizona Cardinals are in a better place without Calais Campbell.
Arizona holds a 4-6 record heading into a Sunday home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The matchup marks the return of the defensive lineman who made himself into one of the most recognizable members of the Cardinals over the previous nine years.
Campbell’s homecoming lands in the middle of what’s likely to end as his most productive season, and that comes after the free agent inked a four-year contract worth $60 million this summer.
“At the end of the day, it was definitely hard leaving Arizona,” Campbell told The Blitz with B-Train and Jurecki on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “Lot of great memories, lot of great people, lot of great friendships. Arizona’s been home — you know, my mom lives there, a lot of my family lives there so I’m looking forward to going there this weekend, looking forward to seeing my family.
“It’s a new chapter, new opportunity. I saw a great opportunity in Jacksonville, and I’m glad that things are working out the way they have so far.”
Campbell is tied with Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence for the NFL lead with 11.5 sacks on the year and he’s already surpassed his previous season high of 9.0 through just 10 games.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound lineman credits personnel and scheme changes to his bump in sack production compared to his Arizona days.
“A slight position change, being on the outside a little bit more, gives me more opportunities on first and second down,” Campbell said. “Also our coverage: Our DBs do a great job. Just the scheme, too. We don’t really blitz a lot so you get more opportunities, ’cause you know, when you don’t blitz, you get a second longer to rush the passer.
“Obviously, too, I think it’s just having fun out there, man, really enjoying myself and trying to really work on my craft,” he added. “I think there’s a level of maturity and experience that’s playing a role into my success right now.”
Jacksonville will especially test a Cardinals passing attack that’s struggled with receiver drops and is on to starting Blaine Gabbert, who began the year as the third-string quarterback.
Campbell has quickly become the leader of that defense, which allows the fewest passing yards per game (162.0), total yards per game (275.6) and points per game (14.1) in the NFL.
It wasn’t easy for him leaving Arizona. As shown in the Uninterrupted video of Campbell’s decision, the defensive lineman even had his agent, Tom Condon, give Arizona a final call before accepting the Jaguars’ offer that he knew was beyond the Cardinals’ budget.
“It kind of fell into place,” Campbell said. “God makes no mistakes, and this is a good opportunity for me to reach my full potential. I’m happy things worked out the way they did.”
Jacksonville comes into University of Phoenix Stadium with a 7-3 record and leading the AFC South, and Campbell expects the emotions to hit him.
That said, he’s trying to stay away from letting his past cloud his focus on the task at hand.
“I’ma try to treat it like it’s another game,” he told B-Train and Jurecki. “There’s a lot of emotion that’s probably going to be (coming up) because of the history. But at the end of the day, I’m just trying to get a W man — I really am.
“I love the organization in Arizona, what they did for me, and allowed me to provide for my family and have some great football years, but right now I’m just trying to live in the moment, man, and play some good football.”
Campbell on what he would say to the Cardinals fans: “There’s so much I would say, but at the end of the day … I have so many great, fond memories of just the fans, the way they showed me love and made me feel like family over the past nine years. I just say, Thank you. Thank you for making me feel like part of a family. That Birdgang has always been very prideful and has a lot of heart. I have so much respect for that whole organization and that whole fan base.”