‘Those guys look up to him’ – Orange County Register

The first move is outside, around the initial teammate standing in way. The next is inside, cutting back across the field toward the coach standing in the role of the quarterback.

The drill is simple. The defensive linemen aren’t wearing pads – just a jersey, shorts and a helmet – and neither are the coaches. So they aren’t supposed to actually finish the sack.

Rookie Travis Jones seemed to miss that part.

He took his turn with speed. Outside, inside. The 6-foot-4, 327-pound lineman arrived with such force that he got the sack, shoving the coach with the ball to the ground.

“Tell me we got that on tape,” defensive line coach Anthony Weaver yelled as Jones laughed while helping the coach up.

Calais Campbell cheered while watching it all unfold during Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp. By default, the 15-year veteran is a leader again. It’s a role he wants, even if he wasn’t sure he was even going to play this season barely six months ago.

While Campbell didn’t have one true moment to know he’d come back, watching the Super Bowl might have sealed it.

“I’ve always had a vision of playing there,” Campbell said. “I’ve always wanted to be back and I have the vision of playing there with this team.”

Campbell played in Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals, losing 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was his rookie year, and he hasn’t been back since. He watched the Los Angeles Rams win a ring in February and realized he still wanted one. He longed to be out on the field, to be playing in that game and to do so with the Ravens.

Campbell considered going elsewhere, but just before he’d ultimately sign his contract in early April, he texted Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta. He told DeCosta he wanted to come back.

That means assuming the leadership role that’s expected for a player of his stature. Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the NFL is a “mentoring league.” With more experience than nearly all of the other Ravens defensive linemen combined, that’s a key part of Campbell’s job.

During minicamp drills, he’s often the most vocal player. When outside linebacker Daelin Hayes got in a heated moment, Campbell was the one to pull him aside and help him cool down.

“It’s massively valuable because those guys look up to him,” Harbaugh said. “These guys grew up watching Calais Campbell. These were the guys when they were in high school or junior high or some cases dare we say elementary school. ”

Campbell is still the star of a defensive line that finished fourth in the NFL last season in run defense efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. It has familiar faces returning to Baltimore, such as Brent Urban and Michael Pierce, though Pierce has not taken part in the first two days of minicamp. Harbaugh said that Pierce has a “personal matter” and gave no further information Tuesday.

There are expectations for young players like Jones to contribute early and Justin Madubuike to take another step forward in his third year. Last year, Madubuike had 36 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and two sacks. After starting 11 games, he could be a full-time starter this year.

“Every year is a key year for me,” Madubuike said. “Every year is just another opportunity to get better. Keep building on your career. ”

That need for young players like Jones to bring the power he displayed Wednesday or Madubuike to break out is amplified with the absence of Brandon Williams, who remains a free agent, and Derek Wolfe, who reached an injury settlement after another hip surgery. Jones and Madubuike are the main faces in the push to get younger. It’s why the Ravens spent a third-round pick on Jones, a player who draft analysts said was selected later than he should have.

The linemen took a quick break when they’d finished their pass rush drill Wednesday. Most knelt down, grabbing water on a hot June afternoon. They cracked jokes, already seeming to bond like a tight-knit group. Campbell taught a few hand-fighting moves to Jones, using the opportunity to help the rookie finish a sack when a real quarterback drops back to pass.


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