After suffering the latest in a string of soft-tissue injuries, this time a calf strain, Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro went to the Ravens doctors and asked if he had some biological dysfunction.
Was there something wrong with his blood cells or something? Why did he keep getting injured?
Nope, they told him. Sometimes it's muscle imbalances. This time it was just bad luck.
Campanaro has dealt with hamstring, groin, quadriceps, calf and back injuries during his first two years in the NFL. They've limited him to just eight games (four each season).
But Campanaro is upbeat these days. He's healthy again, excited to start training camp and believes he's finally overcoming the proverbial snake bites.
"Some guys get injured a few times and they just go in the tank," Campanaro said. "Usually a guy working hard will break through. I've put in the work for sure. One of these times, the injuries are going to go away and I'm going to get a stretch where I'm healthy for four or five years, and I think I'm going to do some good things."
Campanaro admits that the injuries suffered during his rookie season and heading into last year (hamstring, groin, quad) were because his legs were weak. His body had muscle imbalances.
But since a back injury ended last season after four games, the local River Hill High School product has exclusively rehabbed and trained at the Under Armour Performance Center, about 10 minutes away from where he grew up.
Campanaro returned this offseason in fantastic shape. He was "crushing" the team's strength and conditioning program, he said. That is until he strained his calf while jumping just before Organized Team Activities (OTAs) kicked off. He missed all of OTAs and minicamp.
"It's been a little rough, but I'm not the first guy and I won't be the last guy that had injuries early in their career," Campanaro said. "People here always tell me it took like four years for Julian Edelman to break through. He dealt with the same thing."
Edelman missed five games during his rookie year (2009) due to various injuries. He didn't play in three games in 2011 and sat out seven in 2012. Finally, in 2013, Edelman stayed healthy and broke out with 105 receptions for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.
The Ravens drafted Campanaro in the seventh round two years ago with visions of Edelman running through their minds. Even though Campanaro's career hasn't taken off yet, the Ravens still see Edelman potential.
"I've just never seen a guy work as hard as this guy has worked in the last year and a half," Head Coach John Harbaugh said during OTAs. "There will be a time when he will get past this stuff."
When Campanaro has been on the field, he's brought a spark to the Ravens offense. He caught four passes for 39 yards in the divisional playoffs in New England as a rookie. Last year in Pittsburgh, he literally flipped what looked to be a run for a loss into a 9-yard touchdown.
Plays like that make Campanaro confident he can make an impact. He's even more confident after sitting out most of last season and watching games from the sideline.
Campanaro also got some coaching from another (former) Patriot. When Wes Welker was a guest coach with the Ravens for two days during OTAs, Campanaro met with him each morning at 6 a.m. to watch an hour-and-a-half of film. They dissected the little things Welker did to get open in different coverages.
"We don't run the same offense as the Patriots, but we do run some stuff with the slot," Campanaro said. "I see myself being that guy in the slot that Joe [Flacco] can count on. I think I'm different from the other receivers. Everybody does something different and I just want to play my role."
Campanaro's roster spot is by no means guaranteed. He'll return to a competitive wide receiver battle in training camp. With Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman (knee) virtual locks (assuming Perriman is healthy), that likely leaves two spots for seven other receivers.
Rookie fourth-round pick Chris Moore will probably take one, as the Ravens have never had a fourth-round pick not make the opening roster, so that's one spot left. Campanaro will primarily be competing against other slot/returner options Kaelin Clay and sixth-round rookie Keenan Reynolds.
"I think the one thing that helps me is experience," Campanaro said. "I've been around, I know the offense really well and I've played in some games. That helps."
If healthy, Campanaro would seemingly have the edge. But that's been a big "if" so far. Campanaro knows that another injury in training camp would be devastating to his roster chances.
"I'm not thinking about it, but I know in the back of my mind that another injury would be it for me – at least here," he said. "The writing is on the wall with so many injuries."