INDIANAPOLIS – The injuries have stretched the length of his 6-foot-1 frame, from his head (a concussion) to his feet (broken bones in each).
There were the torn posterior collateral and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee that delivered him to “one of the darkest times’’ in his life and cost him the final 14 games of the 2020 season, and abdominal surgery.
They’ve completely altered the portrayal of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2nd-round draft pick.
No longer is Parris Campbell viewed through an optimistic lens. No longer is he that threatening blend of size, speed and explosiveness.
He’s that guy who’s missed 34 of a possible 49 regular-season games with a broken hand, broken feet, torn knee ligaments, whatever.
“From the outside looking in, people are like, ‘Oh, he can’t stay healthy,’’ Campbell said. “Excuse my language, but to hell with that.
“I know who I am. At the end of the day, I know the type of player I am. I know why they drafted me here.’’
Wednesday, Campbell was much more intent on looking ahead than wasting time discussing what has kept him from fulfilling everyone’s expectations.
The injuries and massive time missed are undeniable facts.
But so is this: Campbell turns 25 in July.
“Receiver’s prime age isn’t even until their 26, 27,’’ he insisted.
Reggie Wayne, Campbell’s newest position coach, posted his first 1,000-yard season in his 4th season with the Colts. He was 27.
Marvin Harrison first cracked the 1,000-yard barrier in his 4th season. He was 27.
Injuries didn’t impede Wayne and Harrison as they have Campbell, but it took a few seasons to truly establish themselves.
Perhaps the timing is right.
“You can say I’m in a good spot,’’ Campbell said.
Not only is he heading into year 4, Campbell is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Free agency looms.
“Think about it daily,’’ he said. “To be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way. You might say I’m crazy to say that, but honest to God, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I know me and I know when the pressure’s on, that’s when I’m at my best. It’s always been like that in my career.’’
Campbell developed into a first-team All-Big Ten wideout at Ohio State, but only after redshirting as a true freshman and catching 13 passes his first two seasons.
The reality of the situation never escaped him.
“In college,’’ he said, “they’re recruiting your replacement.’’
Same in the NFL.
“They’re drafting your replacement,’’ he said.
A year after using the 59th overall pick on Campbell, the Colts selected Michael Pittman Jr. in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft. Last month, they invested their top pick – round 2, No. 73 overall – on Alec Pierce.
Campbell realizes what’s at stake in year 4, and is confident he’ll respond.
“When pressure is at it’s highest, I know how to perform,’’ he said. “It’s all a confidence thing. I have so much confidence in myself.
“What better way to prove everybody wrong and prove myself right in year 4 and my contract year? I’m ready for it.’’
As we’ve mentioned, Campbell’s medical chart is full: abdominal surgery, a fractured hand and broken foot as a rookie; a concussion from an auto accident in training camp and the knee in week 2 of 2020 when Minnesota’s Harrison Smith blasted the knee with his helmet; the broken left foot in week 6 against Houston last season.
The most recent injury occurred on Campbell’s most explosive NFL play. After getting behind Texans’ safety Terrance Brooks, he caught a 51-yard touchdown from Carson Wentz. But Campbell knew something was wrong after he was tackled in the end zone.
“As soon as I felt it, I knew,’’ he said.
Campbell bounced to his feet, celebrated with teammates and jogged to the bench. There, he relayed his worst fears to T.Y. Hilton.
I think I broke my foot.
“I knew,’’ Campbell said. “It was really high for a quick second, then, ‘I’ve got to go through this again.’’’
It wasn’t the worst moment of his oft-interrupted NFL career. That was the torn knee ligaments in week 2 of ’20.
“Going through that knee surgery was probably the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,’’ he said. “Shoot, that was definitely one of the darkest times in my life.’’
The incessant injuries, though, have hardened Campbell.
“Mentally, now whatever’s thrown my way I know I’m going to be able to bounce back from it,’’ he said. “Shoot, when I got hurt against Houston with my foot, for a quick second I was like, ‘Damn, not again. I’ve got to do this again.’
“But it wasn’t like the knee. With the knee it was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it back.’ With the foot, I’m like, ‘All right, let’s get to work. Get surgery and let’s get to work because I know I’m going to be able to bounce back.’’’
The Colts are cautiously optimistic.
Their receivers room remains thin on proven experience behind Pittman. Hilton remains unsigned – there’s still a chance he returns for year 11 – and Zach Pascal signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
A healthy and available Campbell would do wonders for the position. He would be an ideal slot complement to Pittman and Pierce.
General manager Chris Ballard was bullish on Campbell during the 2019 draft and that hasn’t changed despite the rash of injuries.
“I’m not quitting on Parris Campbell,’’ he said during the NFL Scouting Combine. “Does it mean we’re going to sit here and count on him to be our 2 or 3 right away? No. We will add competition to the position.
“But Parris Campbell is still a very talented guy. Unfortunate for the injury part of it, but the flashes have been really good with Parris. So hopefully we’ll see it come to fruition. I mean, the guy has worked and done everything he can do. He’s just had some bad luck.’’
That string of bad luck must end, and Campbell knows it. NFL teams generally have little tolerance for injury-prone players.
“I know Chris and I know he believes in me,’’ Campbell said. “If he didn’t believe in me, I wouldn’t be here because most guys, you go through three years and you’ve been hurt every three years, you’re not going to be here.
“That’s just the nature of the business. Obviously I’m here.’’
Campbell’s competitive side is eager to offer an I told ya so to his critics.
“I don’t have anything to prove to anyone,’’ he said. “It’s more proving it to myself. The competitive nature of me, every athlete sees everything negative about them. Somebody says, ‘Oh, I don’t see it or I don’t pay attention to it.’ You see it.
“A part of me will be like, ‘Y’all said all this, but I’m still here.’’’
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