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Calais Campbell Keeps Coming

Posted Dec 27, 2012

Notebook: Hoping Potter ready for Smith; Fitz stays focused

Defensive end Calais Campbell fights to get to the quarterback last weekend against the Bears.

He didn’t make the Pro Bowl, which wasn’t a huge deal to Calais Campbell but was a rallying point to many who believed the Cardinals’ defensive end deserved such an honor.

If nothing else, the support Campbell got underscored the strides he had made. Campbell sees it as a natural progression.

“Last year I feel like I was playing at a high level and some good ball but I feel this year I am just a lot more knowledgeable and I feel more comfortable in the game,” Campbell said. “I get in my stance and feel like I can see what’s going to happen before it actually happens, which of course allows you to have success when you know where the ball is going. Hopefully my game continues to get better and better.”

The Cards would take that. Even though Campbell missed three games with a calf injury, he is still is third on the team in tackles with 63 – impressive for a 3-4 defensive end – has 5½ sacks, seven passes defensed and has played very well against the run.

He has been excellent the past two games especially, showing off the growth he’s made just since signing his contract extension last offseason.

“He has said himself at times, he didn’t turn his switch on fast enough,” said veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday. “When he takes the approach to the game where he feels he has to prove something, when guys get after him about needing to make plays, he seems to play with better pad level, better hands.

“Early in the season, we talked about, ‘Are you really in shape yet? Then he got hurt and it kind of put him in perspective a little bit, all the expectations after getting the big deal and what it takes to be that guy in this league.”

Campbell believes his game would have advanced even without the new contract. But after a big 2011, he did understand people wanted to see a repeat once he wasn’t in a contract year anymore. It is safe to say, Pro Bowl or not, Campbell has done that.

“I feel like you’ll progress if you have the competitive spirit in you,” Campbell said. “You will mature on the field and off the field every day. But I do feel like there is natural pressure when you sign a big deal because everyone expects you to produce. I feel like I could have played better this year, especially earlier in the season. I feel like it was just starting to click when I got hurt. That stinks, because I think those three games were critical.”

BLOCKING OUT SMITH

Two players have a chance to tie or beat Michael Strahan’s record of 22½ sacks in a season going into the final week. One is Houston’s J.J. Watt, who has 20½. The other is the 49ers’ Aldon Smith, who has 19½.

Smith had two sacks the last time he played against the Cardinals. Back then, D’Anthony Batiste was still playing left tackle, not yet replaced by rookie Nate Potter. Potter came in and has been solid, although he missed practice for a second straight day Thursday with a bad ankle.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it was possible for Potter to be ready with limited practice. “Against these guys and it’s a division opponent, you know a little more about them, it wouldn’t be as difficult,” Whisenhunt said. “But with a young player you always want to get as many reps as you can, especially when you are facing a guy like Aldon Smith. (Nate) needs all the work he can get, but he’s been playing pretty well for us, so if he can go, certainly we’re going to get him in there.”

If Potter can’t go, Batiste is his backup.

WHO IS THROWING TO FITZ, AND HIS ALTERNATE STATUS

With the news Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback for the Cardinals Sunday – their fourth different starter this season -- wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was asked how difficult it was to have had four different quarterbacks this season.

“Probably not as difficult as it would be to play with six,” Fitzgerald deadpanned.

On a serious note, Fitzgerald added that “it’s part of the game.”

“We are obviously not having the kind of season we want to have so we are evaluating different players,” Fitzgerald said. “Whoever is throwing the ball, I have to make sure I am doing what I need to do to be on the receiving end of the ball. I try to think about that.”

Fitzgerald also admitted he wasn’t expecting to be named a Pro Bowl alternate after a season that has him with stats (69 catches, 785 yards) off his normal pace. “It’s not likely I will be there, but it is still cool to hear your name,” Fitzgerald said.

Whisenhunt said Fitzgerald’s inclusion as an alternate was “legit.”

“We haven’t had a good year offensively and that has hurt Larry,” Whisnehunt added. “But I think everyone still respects Larry. You can see it by the way people play their coverage.”

CARDS GET INJURY UPGRADES

While Potter was still sidelined along with WR LaRon Byrd (knee), WR Early Doucet (concussion) and FB Anthony Sherman (knee), the Cards did get good news as G Mike Gibson (calf) and S Adrian Wilson (illness) were upgraded to limited and NT Dan Williams (hamstring), S James Sanders (calf) and S Rashad Johnson (hamstring) were all upgraded to full practice.

S Kerry Rhodes was added to the injury report after sitting out bacause of illness. DE Ronald Talley (ankle) remains limited.

 

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