Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell is far too modest for a player so dominant. As he sat talking near his locker Thursday night, Campbell told Shutdown Corner by phone that he's happy to let his play do the talking for him.
"I'm not sure if I am having a great season or not," Campbell said. "I am just trying to do whatever I can for this defense."
Doing all he can equates to playing 447 snaps, most among Cardinals defensive linemen and one of the highest totals by a defensive lineman in the NFL this season, per Pro Football Focus. Campbell has four sacks, including a two-sack (one for a safety), forced-fumble monster effort in a 22-6 win over the suddenly hot Carolina Panthers.
He's also active outside the team, helping out a number of charities — including the United Way and Wounded Warrior Project — and spending time with his serious girlfriend. Campbell had a scary moment in Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers when he was taken off the field on a stretcher with a potentially serious neck injury, but left the hospital that night and amazingly played four days later against the Seattle Seahawks.
"Leaving the hospital, I wasn't sure if I could play [against the Seahawks], but I knew I had been lucky [to avoid serious injury]," he said. "It was scary at first, but I was pretty sure I was OK, moving my arms OK."
Asked if he's shocked that, after averaging nearly seven sacks the past four seasons (in a playing role that's difficult to accumulate sacks), he never has made a Pro Bowl, Campbell said, "I guess so, but I am not too worried about it. If I play well, I might make [a Pro Bowl], but until then I just have to keep working hard and playing hard each week."
Campbell might not be comfortable extolling his own virtues, but he's more than happy to spread the praise around elsewhere. One player who definitely has caught his eye is rookie defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who came into the NFL shrouded in controversy after a rocky career at LSU. But Mathieu has done all the right things since joining the Cardinals, Campbell said.
"He's great. I enjoy playing with him," he said. "You need guys like that, guys who play so hard and do so much out there. You want those kinds of playmakers on your defense. He can bail you out."
In fact, Campbell wouldn't be shocked if Mathieu, who has shown an incredible propensity for blitzing successfully in his first seven NFL games, ends up setting the defensive back record for sacks.
"He should have like seven sacks right now," Campbell said of Mathieu, who only has one official sack in the book. "I wouldn't be surprised, when it's all over and done, if he ends up setting the record for sacks by a [defensive back]."
The DB record is held by Rodney Harrison with 30.5, and the high-water mark for a cornerback is Ronde Barber with 28.
The nucleus of this Cardinals defense is strong with Campbell, Mathieu, Darnell Dockett, Patrick Peterson, Daryl Washington (back from suspension), and some key veterans bringing the group together. Campbell thinks it has the potential, in time, to be among the NFL's best units.
"I see no reason why not," he said. "When we're at our best, we can shut people down. I think it's all coming together now, I really do."
With a win Sunday against the beat-up Atlanta Falcons, the Cardinals will go into the bye at .500 with a 4-4 mark. Lose, and they'll have two weeks to stew about being two games under.
"We know what's in front of us," he said. "This weekend is big for momentum for us."
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