Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell is set to embark on his 14th season in the NFL and second with the Baltimore Ravens. He’ll be 35-years old by the time the team’s season opener rolls around and is at the point in his career where he is considering walking away from the game.
“That’s something I’m still figuring out, I guess,” Campbell said following the first day of mandatory minicamp. “I kind of take it one year at a time. I know that I’ve got this year in me for sure. I’m going to give what I have this year, and then we’ll re-evaluate once the season ends.”
Campbell admitted that calling it a career is “definitely something he thinks about” but is taking a wait-and-see approach as he comes up on milestones and the time continues to fly faster than he imagined. He’s committed to playing this season and maybe one more but that’s no guarantee.
“I used to say when I was younger I wanted to play 15 (years),” Campbell said. “I didn’t realize how hard 15 was going to be. This is 14 for me. I know I’ve got this in me for sure. I’d still like to play 15. Hopefully, I’ve got another one. We’ll see.”
He has accomplished quite a bit during his career and is coming off his sixth Pro Bowl season in his first with the Ravens. Campbell has been a part of top-ranked defenses, loaded rosters, and even conference championship teams in both the NFC and AFC. However, one mantle that he has yet to be able to hold is that of Super Bowl champion.
The closest he got was a runner-up finish in the big game during his rookie season in 2008 when he was playing for the Arizona Cardinals and his team fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion in Superbowl XLIII. Lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy is the ultimate goal of all 32 NFL teams, every coach, executive, and player, and is one of the biggest driving forces that pushes Campbell to keep playing.
The Ravens appeared to be a team primed to make a deep playoff run in 2020 but injuries, an outbreak of COVID-19, and some bad breaks in the postseason ultimately proved to be too much for them to overcome.
“There’s only one happy team at the end of the year,” Campbell said. “Last year, we feel like we had a good chance but we didn’t get it done. I think the mentality this year is just try to make the best of this one. We know what we have as a team as far as talent, as far as scheme. We know that we can be very good, quite special, really.”
The league shortened the preseason and expanded the regular season by one game this year. The Ravens are poised to be a top contender again this year and Campbell doesn’t see any reason why his team can’t be the first to win it all under the new format.
“It’s a new year, 17 games, this year is going to be a little different than years past. Somebody has to set the standard for that. Why not us?”
His first year with the team was a success for the most part but it came with its fair share of adversity. It first came in the form of a calf strain that knocked him out of commission for a while then was compounded by contracting COVID-19. He says he’s fully recovered now but will never forget his experience and the effects that lingered after he returned to action.
“Sometimes, I feel like it kind of comes and goes, I guess I really can’t be sure until we get to the thick of things,” Campbell said. “I’ve been really good for the last couple of months. I haven’t had any real issues. It lingered for a while. I still don’t wish that on anybody, it’s such a tough thing to go through. You don’t feel like yourself, even when you’re past the symptoms that everybody has. I definitely feel a lot better. I feel like I’m ready to go out there and dominate, have some fun. I hope I stay that way.”
As the pandemic still rages across the world and new variants seem to pop up every week, the topic of vaccinations is still a controversial one in locker rooms across the league. Campbell is among the contingent of players that is already fully vaccinated and ready to get things back to normal but he also respects the decisions of his teammates that are on the fence or not onboard entirely with getting the vaccine.
“To each their own,” Campbell said. “Each person has to do their own research and figure out what’s best for them. As a team, we’re working toward something great here. I feel like everybody supports each other.”
The Ravens announced last month that their entire coaching staff is fully vaccinated and will encourage but not coerce the players to do the same. Campbell is well respected by his teammates and across the league. He was named the 2019 Walter Peyton Man of the Year and continues to be involved in communities near and abroad with his philanthropic off-the-field efforts which aren’t likely to end whenever he decides to retire. If anything, they’ll only increase.
If 2021 does end up being Campbell’s last ride, hopefully, he can get the same sendoff that Hall of Famer and Ravens Ring of Honor member, Ray Lewis, got in 2012 when he rode off into the sunset of retirement. While it’d mean he fell one year short of playing a decade and a half, he’d finally add the title of Super Bowl champion to his own illustrious resume.