Outside Linebacker Justin Houston isn’t the only highly productive seasoned veteran defender that had a blast with the Baltimore Ravens this past year and isn’t ruling out a possible return if he chooses to continue his playing career.
On Monday, the day following the team’s debilitating playoff loss, six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell told reporters that he’d have to take some time and contemplate his future before committing to coming back for his 16th season.
“I don’t think it would be wise to decide so quickly. I think you have to go through a process. So, I’m going to give myself a few weeks to kind of go through that process and decide after that,” Campbell said.
Last offseason after the Ravens came up short of making the playoffs altogether because of being ravaged by injuries, he contemplated retirement before being reinvigorated after working a Superbowl broadcast and realizing that he still had the fire to compete and drive to strive for a championship of his own.
“This is definitely… It’s going to be hard to walk away, that’s for sure. So, we’ll see,” Campbell said. “I’ll talk to the front office and talk to the coaches and I’ll think. There’s a chance I could be back here again next year; I just have to go through my process.”
Another Ageless Wonder
At 36 years old, Campbell proved that he could still be a disruptive force in his first year playing in defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s system by recording 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in 2022, both of which were tied for the second most on the team behind Houston.
His sack total from this year tied his total from his first two years with the team in just 14 games compared to the 27 combined game total from 2020-2021. He also recorded 36 total tackles, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, and blocked a field goal according to Pro Football Reference.
“I feel like I was still able to affect the ballgames, and that’s important,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to be a guy out here that’s not affecting the ballgames, just being a guy. So, that matters to me to decide if I’m going to continue playing or not because I want to make sure that I’m going to be confident that I can go out there and be a difference maker and not just being a guy.
“I think that wouldn’t do justice to my career and my legacy if I go out there and become less than what I’ve been. So, that’s something I have to weigh, but this year I think I was on par to the standard of excellence that I hold myself to.”
Still Chasing Greatness While Providing Priceless Leadership
Unlike last season where he entered the offseason slated to be an unrestricted free agent, Campbell is under contract for another year and will have a modest salary cap charge of just $8.94 million next season, per spotrac.com.
Like Houston, his resume is certainly Hall of Fame worthy and littered with accomplishments, most notably being a Walter Peyton Man of the Year recipient. However, in addition to having never won a championship, Campbell is one sack shy of reaching the century mark for his career and admitted that being so close to joining that rare club will certainly be a factor in his ultimate decision to return.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t [a factor],” he said of being just short of 100. “I had plenty of opportunities to get it this year and didn’t get it done. … I had the guy in my arms a couple times, and just missed him. So, I guess it’s not the top of the list, but it’s something I really want.”
Also like Houston, his role as a mentor and on-field coach for younger players in his position group has been invaluable was evident in seeing the incredible strides that third-year pros Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington made.
The 2020 draftmates emerged as consistent interior disrupters in both the run and pass game. Madubuike tied Campbell in both sacks and quarterback hits while Washington led the position group with 49 total tackles.
Campbell will be 37 by the time next season starts and he did have to miss three games due to injury including two of their last three to close out the regular season with a knee injury that he had to wear a brace for upon his return. While it’s likely that he’ll return for one last ride to try to reach 100-plus career sacks and make one more run at a Superbowl, he could also opt to walk off into the sunset satisfied with the gold jacket-worthy career he’s had.