MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Calais Campbell admittedly didn't do much in his return to practice after two-plus weeks on the non-football injury list.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. The Falcons defensive lineman primarily worked during individuals drills over two joint practices with the host Miami Dolphins, which offered the opportunity to ramp back up after getting physically right.
While joint sessions provide a litmus test for how players are performing in training camp, Campbell doesn't need any of that. The 16th-year veteran has one goal in mind get ready for Week 1 and well beyond.
"My trajectory is different than the average player," Campbell said Wednesday in his first interview since July 24. "Coach (Arthur Smith) did a really good job of letting me heal through what I had going on and build into really good shape. We had a good conversation about what exactly I need to prep for Week 1. I promise you I'll be ready to go, ready to dominate."
Smith was clear back then that Campbell going on NFI was no surprise and no long-term thing, that the former NFL defensive player of the year had some things to work through before practicing in earnest.
That has now begun slowly. Count Campbell among the masses, including yours truly, who would be "very surprised" if he plays Friday's preseason opener against the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
Whether he makes a preseason cameo at some point or not, Campbell and Smith have a plan for how to maximize his talent, snaps and availability in games that count.
"The goal is to be playing my best ball late in the season," Campbell said. "You obviously want to start fast and maintain for as long as possible. I'm trying to get reps to get ready. I'm trying to be as efficient as possible and give myself as much of a runway as possible so I can be dominant as possible for as long as I can during the season."
Campbell and Smith share those same goals and have come up with a personalized plan for how to let Campbell, who takes care of his body as well as any NFL player, do whatever is possible to get right and stay that way.
"We have a really good coach who is very understanding about what his players need and he tries to put his players in a position to be dominant," Campbell said. "I think he understands how hard to push me. The biggest thing is communication. We have really good communication and are on the same page. I think it's going to pay off."
Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work with the Miami Dolphins during the 2023 AT&T Training Camp.