Bring back a future Hall of Fame player that is still performing near the top of their game for one last ride is always preferable to a team with realistic championship aspirations and chances. When a veteran player is a tremendous leader on and off the field, in addition to being a gold jacket talent, his presence and influence on his teammates, especially the younger generation, is invaluable.
That is exactly the kind of superb veteran leadership that Calais Campbell provides for the Baltimore Ravens and why head coach John Harbaugh was glad that the team was able to re-sign him this offseason.
“It’s massively valuable because those guys look up to him,” Harbaugh said. “These young guys grew up watching Calais Campbell and all these other veteran guys. These are the guys they watched when they were in high school or even junior high in some cases. Dare we say elementary school in Calais’ case.”
The six-time Pro Bowler signed a two-year deal to remain with the team and made an indwelling impact on over the past couple of seasons since being acquired via trade during the 2020 offseason.
“He’s a Year 15 guy, so he knows the ins-and-outs of the National Football League,” Justin Madubuike said. “He’s a great guy, great player, Walter Payton Man of the Year. What more can you ask for, really, from a vet? The best advice he gave me – just keep working. He tells me to just keep working, don’t get satisfied, stay hungry.”
Harbaugh said that getting words of wisdom from players of Campbell’s experience and pedigree is “very meaningful” for younger players no matter the position or side of the ball.
“That’s what the league is. It’s a mentoring league,” Harbaugh said. “Four or five years ahead help four or five years back. And in turn, you look back and kind of pay it back with the guys that you mentor as you start to mature. That’s one of the great things I love about the NFL.”
Both Harbaugh and Campbell are excited about the young talent along with the interior of their defensive line. Madubuike and Broderick Washington are heading into pivotal third seasons and have already looked very impressive during OTAs and Minicamp. They brought back veteran nose tackle Michael Pierce in free agency and drafted Travis Jones, who is capable of playing both nose and three-technique spots, in the third round of this year’s draft.
“I expect big things out of our D-line,” Campbell said. “We always say, ‘The team goes where the D-line goes.’ Obviously, there’s the quarterback, and there’s the D-line. I feel like we have to be at our very best and lead this team.”
The 35-year-old admitted that he weighed his options after opting not to retire this offseason. However, he ultimately decided to come back to Baltimore because he believes the Ravens fit “right in line” with who he is and that they are on the cusp of achieving greatness.
“I want to be a champion,” Campbell said. “And I think that’s a big reason why I feel like Baltimore brought me back. I think we have unfinished business. This team and where we’re at, I think we were so close, even though we didn’t make the playoffs last year. But if you really watch this team and see how we fought and how we competed, this team is on the cusp of something great, and I just can’t wait to go back to battle with my guys.”