When Calais Campbell’s deal with the Falcons was announced, it shocked the entire NFL world.
After all, why is a future Hall of Famer in his twilight years, who is only missing a Super Bowl ring, choosing the measly Falcons? Well, it was a combination of reasons.
Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot, and Arthur Blank all had a hand in convincing the towering Campbell to come to Atlanta.
The head coach and general manager sat down with him to watch film on Desmond Ridder to convince him the team will be competitive with him under center. There were also promises about his role, which will be as a traditional defensive end, one he thrived in with the Jaguars.
Moreover, the organization’s owner had a bit to do with the signing, given his philanthropic efforts.
All in all, it was a shocking free agent signing, but Calais Campbell hasn’t been with the team much during training camp, spending more than two weeks on the non-football injury list, which he was removed from earlier this week. He hasn’t participated much in joint practices with the Dolphins, and I don’t expect him to play in the preseason contest either. In fact, he likely won’t take a snap in an exhibition, but that’s not his goal.
“My trajectory is different than the average player,” Campbell said Wednesday in his first interview since July 24. “Coach (Arthur Smith) did a really good job of letting me heal through what I had going on and build into really good shape. We had a good conversation about what exactly I need to prep for Week 1. I promise you I’ll be ready to go, ready to dominate.”
The goal for a 16-year veteran is to get him ready for Week 1 and to have him healthy until the last game, which is hopefully in the postseason. The Falcons have done an excellent job with veterans, giving them days off whenever they need them. This isn’t your grandfather’s football. Guys like Cordarrelle Patterson, Campbell, etc. don’t need to be going 100% in practice to be ready for Sundays. The goal is to be at their best for as long as possible.
“The goal is to be playing my best ball late in the season,” Campbell said. “You obviously want to start fast and maintain for as long as possible. I’m trying to get reps to get ready. I’m trying to be as efficient as possible and give myself as much of a runway as possible so I can be dominant as possible for as long as I can during the season.”
For as green as Arthur Smith is as a head coach, he’s shown an ability to connect and give players what they need. Coaching in the NFL is hard because you’ve got rookies like Bijan Robinson, who can take practicing hard every single day and probably needs it, as well as 15+ year veterans like Calais Campbell that don’t need to be pushed in a similar capacity.
It’s good to see Atlanta’s head coach recognize that.
Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire