Defensive end Calais Campbell (93), along with linebacker Paris Lenon, brings down Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart last weekend in Carolina.
Calais Campbell wishes he could've played better this year.
Expectations were high before the season, and the defensive end understands he didn't meet them. The losing the Cardinals have endured hasn't been easy.
But it hasn't been hard either. Hard was living in a homeless shelter with his family around the time he was about to enter seventh grade, his parents having lost their jobs. That lasted eight months, and is a big reason the holiday shopping spree he puts on this time of year benefits homeless children.
Campbell figures his family was evicted "from a few houses" growing up. His tight-knit group, which included five brothers and two sisters, always found a way to bounce back.
Now isn't going to be any different for him personally, even if he'd have liked to re-start 2010.
"You realize I am living a dream, whether I am 4-10 (as a record) or 10-4, I am living a dream doing something I wanted to do since I was 6 years old," Campbell said. "I am doing what I wanted to in life."
Campbell's "disappointing" year still has context. Statistically, he still has a chance to equal his solid 2009 season. He already has three more tackles that he did all of last year (56-53), his five quarterback pressures and six quarterback hits are in the range of where he was last season (2-7) and he is only two sacks shy of his seven in 2009.
All that despite getting less playing time with the emergence of backup Alan Branch and with a bad ankle he suffered Nov. 21 in Kansas City. Campbell said he felt he had finally reached where he needed to be mentally against Seattle the week before (acknowledging he should have been better sooner) only to get hurt a week later.
The ankle remains sore, although Campbell is coming off his best game of the season, plowing through the Panthers for 11 tackles (nine solo), a sack and four tackles-for-loss.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been hesitant to assess Campbell's year, however, and expects more from his defensive end.
"I'm not really going to get into how Calais has played although this weekend it was nice to see Calais play the way he did," Whisenhunt said. "What he's got to do is establish some consistency and have that week in and week out. He's a good young player. On this team, where we are now, we need guys like him to play more consistently.
That would explain why Branch started eating more into Campbell's playing time about a month into the season. Campbell insisted he has "played my heart out" all year, but knows there were plays he should have made and didn't. "And I think of myself as a playmaker."
With two games left, Campbell just wants to learn from everything he has gone through this season, and set himself up for next season. In theory, he'll be starting with Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams on the defensive line, a group with potential – but only if they live up to such.
Having a positive attitude about a year that could've soured it will help Campbell. He's been through worse.
"Life is what you make it," Campbell said. "Every day I try and make the day the best it can be."
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