FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons defensive end Calais Campbell has made a huge impression on his new teammates.
“Just a great human being,” Falcons linebacker Troy Andersen said Wednesday after OTAs. “Obviously, Year 16 is crazy in the National Football League, and (he’s) one of the biggest humans I’ve ever seen.”
Campbell, who’s 6-foot-8 and 307 pounds, signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Falcons.
Campbell has made 208 career starts and is a six-time Pro Bowler who hasn’t recorded less than four sacks in a season but once since his rookie season. He’s also highly respected around the league for his community work, winning the 2019 Walter Payton Man of The Year award for his off-the-field involvement.
Campbell, who’ll turn 37 on Sept. 1, is making his presence felt during the team’s OTAs.
“I’m doing pretty good,” Campbell said. “It’s football. It’s always good to get around the guys and get to know the guys. When you come to a new team, everybody is new. You have to build relationships and create that camaraderie that allows us to be successful.”
Campbell was a second-round pick (50th overall) by the Cardinals in 2008. He played the past three seasons for the Ravens. In 2022, Campbell played 550 defensive snaps (62%) for the Ravens and 123 special-teams snaps (35%). He had 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits and four tackles for losses.
He’s been impressed with the Falcons new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who’s coming over from the Saints.
“He loves ball,” Campbell said. “Very particular about technique and how to be successful because he studies it. He’s had a lot of success. I think that’s going to allow us to really improve. He has a lot of weapons at his disposal. I think our defense will be really good this year.”
Campbell, along with other free-agent signees, will be expected to help improve the Falcons’ defense, which ranked 23rd in total defense and produced only 21 sacks (31st in the league) in 17 games last season.
Things are off to a great start in the offseason.
“It’s a great environment,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of guys that are hungry.”
Yeah, but can they play.
“The biggest thing is, you see a lot of potential and everything, but it really comes down to are the guys going to work, put the work in to be the best that they can be, the best version of themselves,” Campbell said. “All of us as a whole, can we put the work in to kind of really improve.”
Campbell believes the structure of the offseason activities are conducive to that internal improvement.
“(They) allow for us to kind of improve on things and work with each other,” Campbell said. “We work hard. That’s for sure. But it’s efficient. It’s quality work. I’m really excited about this year. The coaching staff is great.
“The games plans are going to be really good based off of our scheme. It’s fun to go out there and compete. You can only do so much this time of year. You just see the drive and the work ethic, that’s important part.”
Campbell has been open to sharing knowledge.
“I’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge during (15 years in the NFL),” Campbell said. “In all facets, too. On-the-field, off-the-field, pretty much every position, I can give some kind of advice.”
Campbell and defensive tackle David Onyemata signed in free agency to help Grady Jarrett upfront. The Falcons also have some young talent in Timothy Horne and third-round pick Zach Harrison.
“I see a lot of potential in them,” Campbell said. “I can’t help myself, I have to give them my two cents. I let the coaches coach them, but I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t speak up and help guys when I can. It’s only been a couple of days, but I really enjoy trying to just like love on guys and help them be the best that they can be.”
Campbell is excited that the Falcons are going to use him at defensive end.
“First thing, I’m going to be the most productive there,” Campbell said. “I can help the team win the most there in my opinion. I feel like I’m a football player. You put me out there anywhere, I’m going to give it my best and probably do a really good job. Maybe not safety or corner or something like that. Anywhere in that front seven I feel like I can be effective.”
Campbell believes the Falcons have some newfound depth.
“It’s football, we’ll figure it out,” Campbell said. “It’s good to have a lot of weapons. I think we build that bond, go out there and sell out every play. You exhaust yourself on the football field and rotate and make plays. There is enough to go around.”
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