Calais Campbell's first year with the Ravens didn't unfold the way he planned, but he envisions a better story for 2021.
The six-time Pro Bowl defensive end is stoked for his 14th NFL season, chasing the elusive Super Bowl ring he desperately wants before he retires. Campbell isn't sure how much longer he's going to play, but he's healthy and upbeat for the start training camp, prepared for the grind and any obstacles that may stand in his way.
Campbell will turn 35 years old on Sept. 1, but he still sets lofty standards sets for himself. Despite making the Pro Bowl again last season, Campbell had just four sacks, his lowest total since his rookie year. Campbell (92 career sacks) wants at least eight sacks this season to reach 100 for his career, and he's taking it upon himself to answer some of the questions about Baltimore's pass rush after its free-agent losses.
"I set personal goals," Campbell said. "I think it's important. The main goal is always the team goal, to get that jewelry. I always tell myself I want to be Super Bowl MVP. That's always been a goal of mine.
"This year, I'm eight sacks from 100. That's something that's always been my goal. So I will share that one, this year I want to get over the 100 mark. It's definitely a lofty goal. I've got over eight sacks in my career like five times, something like that. It's not easy, but I put myself in position, I feel really good about it. I think this would be a good year to go out there and make it happen."
Health was an unexpected issue for Campbell in 2020, after he had not missed a game during the previous five seasons. He missed three games with a calf injury, and was sidelined one game on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Even after he returned to action from the coronavirus, Campbell said it took time to regain his usual breathing. After being vaccinated this offseason and having a normal offseason of training, Campbell feels good about his chances to stay healthy.
"Right now, I feel great," Campbell said. "Flexibility, mobility, being strong. Last year was a unique year, just on the limitations on the people you could be around with COVID leading into the season. This year it was back to normal and I feel great, excited, ready to go. I think this is going to be a big year."
The NFL's first 17-game season could feel like a marathon for some veteran players, but Campbell isn't shying away from the challenge of playing an extra regular-season game.
"The biggest thing is embracing it," Campbell said. "It's there, it's not going anywhere. The good thing is you probably get an opportunity to make some more stats. Real talk, it's football. Seventeen games, 16 games, hopefully we get to play a few more games in the playoffs. We can make it up on the back end by getting a first-round bye if we can get to that level. Nothing changes. The grind's going to be the same, just one more game to go through."
As a respected veteran who was the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2019, Campbell became an instant team leader in Baltimore, and he looks forward to bonding even more with teammates this year. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser senses that Campbell is ready to make a statement with his play.
"He's a guy who is going to come with the same mentality each and every year – to dominate – and obviously, you've seen that over the past decade or so that he's been in the league," Bowser said. "It's great to see that, especially from a veteran guy who's proved himself, who's going to be a future Hall of Famer – to come out with a mindset that he's coming in fresh, he's coming in to prove himself again."