The NFL season is a long and grueling one—and it’s even longer and more grueling going forward, after the league expanded it from 16 games to 17. That’s going to be an adjustment for everybody, but perhaps especially for the old veterans who have already put in a decade or more of the old routine.
Calais Campbell is one of the old heads, and he recognizes that he is nearing the end of the road. Originally drafted in 2008 in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals, he is entering his 14th NFL season, and will turn 35 at the start of September. He talked about the road ahead back during Spring workouts.
“That’s something that I’m still figuring out, I guess. I kind of take it one year at a time, and I know that I’ve got this year in me, for sure”, the Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman told reporters regarding his future beyond the 2021 season. “I’m going to give everything I have this year, and then we’ll re-evaluate once the season ends”.
The Ravens first acquired Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars last year in a trade, exchanged for a fifth-round pick, before signing him to a one-year extension that kept him under contract for 2021. He played 12 games last season, missing some time due to COVID-19, ultimately registering 28 tackles, four sacks, and six batted passes.
He is now a six-time Pro Bowler, having made it with three different teams, in addition to being a three-time All-Pro (once on the first team), and most notably, a member of the 2010s NFL All-Decade Team—from with Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Cameron Heyward was snubbed, but I digress.
But there’s always an expiration date. It’s only so long that you can retain peak physical conditioning of the human body when you’re tasked with competing against the best of the best in the world at what they do 70-plus times per game, 17-plus times a year.
“It’s definitely something you think about”, Campbell said of retirement. “I used to always say when I was younger that I wanted to play 15 [years]. I didn’t realize how hard 15 was going to be; I think I was a little young. But this is 14 for me, and I know I’ve got this in me, for sure. But I still would like to play 15, so hopefully I’ve got another one. So, we’ll see”.
The Ravens could perhaps use some young blood along their defensive line, with Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe being their other starters. Justin Madubuike is one young player they’re excited about, and perhaps Broderick Washington could be another.
But they’ll need more in short order, especially if this is going to be Campbell’s final season, though that remains to be seen. Not a lot of defensive linemen even get the opportunity from their organizations to continue to play into their mid-30s.