GREEN BAY, Wis. – De’Vondre Campbell is the Green Bay Packers’ latest one-year rental at linebacker.
In 2018, it was Antonio Morrison. In 2019, it was B.J. Goodson. In 2020, it was Christian Kirksey.
After three swings and misses, the linebacker-hungry Packers on Wednesday signed Campbell, a 70-game starter in his five NFL seasons, to a one-year deal. Campbell participated in individual drills during the final two days of the team’s mandatory minicamp.
“My job is to do whatever I’m asked to do,” Campbell said after minicamp wrapped up on Thursday. “I feel like I have very little limitations in my game, so whatever it is that the coaching staff wants me to do, I’m just going to go out and do it to the best of my ability.”
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A fourth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 who set career highs of 129 tackles and three forced fumbles in 2019, Campbell signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency last offseason. He started all 16 games and recorded 99 tackles and a career-high seven tackles for losses.
Unlike the other veteran additions, Campbell brings an excellent combination of size and athleticism. At the 2016 Scouting Combine, he measured 6-foot-3 5/8 and ran his 40 in 4.58 seconds. The height, well, stands out.
“It allows me to able to play and use my strengths to my advantage,” Campbell said. “Most linemen are 6-4, 6-5 and so am I. When they’re trying to climb on me, I can use my length to keep them away from me and try to find the ball. Also, when I’m in coverage against tight ends, most of them are bigger guys. Usually, it’s a mismatch if a safety or a corner is on them. It’s not really a mismatch with me because I can match up with them.”
That’s allowed Campbell to stay on the field. During his final three seasons in Atlanta, he played 91 percent of the defensive snaps in 2017, 83 percent in 2018 and 89 percent in 2019. Last year in Arizona, he played 79 percent – going from almost 100 percent in the first eight games to ceding playing time to No. 8 overall selection Isaiah Simmons in the final eight games.
With the Packers, he might have to beat out fellow University of Minnesota linebacker Kamal Martin for playing time.
When Campbell was a rookie with Atlanta in 2016, Packers coach Matt LaFleur was the team’s second-year quarterbacks coach. They struck up a connection that played a role in Campbell’s decision to choose Green Bay.
“I used to talk to Matt every day,” Campbell said. “Matt used to come over and talk to us all the time. I had a really good relationship with him. I saw him every day. I spoke to him every day. So, coming here was a pretty easy decision because I already knew who he was. I know what kind of guy he is, what kind of guys he wants on his team. He’s a character guy and that goes a long way for me.”
While disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers is miffed at the organization, the organization is a reason why Campbell said he signed. He called it a “historic franchise” with a strong defense.
A part of the Falcons team that wiped out the Packers in the 2016 NFC Championship Game but imploded in the Super Bowl, he has missed the postseason the past three seasons. Campbell believes he can be a key piece to the puzzle for a team that has fallen a game short of the Super Bowl the past two seasons.
“When you see the ‘G,’ it speaks for itself,” he said. “Just having a chance to play for such a high-class organization, you see the difference immediately. Everybody is welcoming, even the GM, the staff. Even offensive coaches introducing themselves to me. That’s what a first-class organization is all about, and I’m seeing it first-hand.”