Cardinals' new inside linebacker excited about future for himself, team
De'Vondre Campbell could have grumbled about his offseason during a Zoom call with Arizona media on Thursday afternoon.
The 26-year-old inside linebacker entered free agency in March expecting a multi-year contract offer, but instead settled for a one-year deal with the Cardinals.
Five weeks later, Isaiah Simmons was selected by the Cardinals with the No. 8 overall pick, and despite his extreme versatility, was sent to learn the same weakside linebacker spot as Campbell.
Instead of projecting annoyance on the video chat from his home in Minneapolis, the four-year veteran was a picture of positivity - excited about the trajectory of both himself and his new team.
"I just like the way things are headed," Campbell said.
The optimism is not unfounded.
Campbell has a strong track record of production in the NFL, which makes it unlikely he is cast aside due to the arrival of Simmons. The rookie's versatility also allows defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to use them together if that proves optimal.
"Plenty of snaps to go around," Campbell said. "You can never have enough great players, and Isaiah, he's a unicorn. He's very gifted. We've had the pleasure of being in the same meeting room together. He's very intelligent. He's picking up on the defense pretty fast. I think I'm picking up on it as well. At this point, the only we can do is take it day by day, compete and continue to make each other better."
Campbell had a career year in traditional categories in 2019 - setting personal bests in tackles (129), interceptions (2), forced fumbles (3) and tackles for loss (6) - and Joseph thought he would be priced out of the team's range in free agency.
Instead, the Cardinals nabbed him during the second wave, adding an athletic off-ball coverage linebacker to a position group that sorely lacked that skillset in 2019.
With Simmons now in the fold, too, the Cardinals have a pair of favorable options when they face elusive pass-catching running backs and tight ends.
"I still honestly believe I can cover any tight end in the league," Campbell said. "It's professional football, so of course this is the best of the best, but I'm very confident in my abilities."
While outsiders are trying to fit the defensive puzzle pieces together for the Cardinals, Campbell praised the clear plan laid out to him by Joseph and linebackers coach Bill Davis.
"I've been in situations before where you just don't know what to expect," Campebll said. "This is not one of those situations."
Campbell is getting to know his teammates virtually, and it may take time for him to ascend to a leadership role, but when it happens, the self-described introvert will happily accept.
"I don't talk much, but when I do, it's pretty important," Campbell said. "I'm a very thoughtful person. I don't just say stuff to say it. If I speak up, it's something I've seen several times and I've thought about it."
Campbell takes team harmony seriously, which makes his praise for Simmons that much more logical.
He pointed to tangible proof of its effects, harkening back to his march to the Super Bowl as a rookie with the Falcons in 2016.
"I've been on teams where nobody is really cool with each other," Campbell said. "We all have a job to do and that's it. It's just a job. But that year, it was special because you had guys from different backgrounds, different upbringings, clicking together. We were going on bowling trips like once a week. We were doing stuff as a group, and it built our chemistry up that much more.
"And that's really what it takes, having overall team chemistry. In all football games, there comes a point when things get really hard and really tough. You look at the man next to you, and if you have that great relationship with him, you're more willing to leave it all on the field."