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Campbell Wants To Make A Difference

Defensive end focuses on now while contract talks loom


Defensive end Calais Campbell pulls down Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for one of his sacks last weekend against the Seahawks.

The stats came from everywhere in one afternoon: 10 tackles, 2½ sacks, two tackles for loss and four hits on the quarterback.

Defensive end Calais Campbell has always performed well against the Seahawks, and, with veteran Robert Gallery sidelined and teammate Darnell Dockett getting the Seattle double-teams, it was the inexperienced Paul McQuistan trying to block Campbell.

Still, Campbell's day was noteworthy, especially for a player who has been searching for the next level in his performances.

"I have it in my head I want to be a dominant player," Campbell said. "I want to be a difference maker in this game."

Ever since the Cardinals took Campbell in the second round of the 2008 draft, they have hoped he could become just such a player. With veteran Darnell Dockett anchoring the other side of the 3-4 front and former No. 1 pick Dan Williams manning the middle, Campbell is a natural fit to round out the other side. At 6-foot-8, he has become a weapon on special teams – he blocked the third field goal of his career in Washington – and has flashes defensively like he showed against the Seahawks.

Soon, the Cardinals have to make a decision on Campbell. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. General manager Rod Graves said "at some point" an extension for Campbell will be discussed, and the Cards are expected to try and extend him before he reaches the open market.

Graves called Campbell one of the Cardinals' current "core players," always a good sign when it comes to a potential new deal.

"He has become an outstanding leader, he's a huge asset to us in the locker room and he's an influence off the field and in the community," Graves said. "That's the kind of player we want to build our football team around."

Campbell said he obviously is aware his contract is coming to an end. He'd rather not think about it because he can't control it himself, but it is his future, and "a big decision is going to be made pretty soon."

That decision, however, partly hinges on how he plays right now, though. Campbell is aware of that, too.

It's been harder because of the new scheme of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but Campbell had his ups and downs last year as well, when everyone was expecting a breakout season after a solid 2009. Campbell didn't play poorly in 2010, but he didn't consistently stand out either.

In the Cards' current defense, Campbell isn't expected to have stat-filled games every week; that isn't the consistent responsibility of the ends. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Campbell is beginning to trust the defensive scheme, which will only help.

"I am glad Calais was able to make those plays and show the type of player he is," Dockett said. "It's all about sacrificing for the defense. We are all trying to make plays. He's only going to get better. His upside is huge."

Campbell said his mental game is so much better than when his career began in 2008, and he has learned to leverage that in his favor. But that upside Dockett referenced has not been reached yet, Campbell said, even if he is "close."

"I feel I can be a difference-maker. I feel like I can win games, help my team win games, and I don't really feel like I have done that yet," Campbell said. "I know it's coming. I know I have the ability to be great."

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