Cardinals' Campbell doesn't particularly like 'underrated' label

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GLENDALE, Arizona — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians calls Calais Campbell one of the most underrated players in the NFL.

It's a description the big defensive end doesn't really like.

"To me it's a term that you don't want because you'd rather be viewed as one of the best in the game," he said, "but it's nice that if you're not getting the top accolades, at least people know that you're working hard and they recognize you a little bit. So it's better than nothing."

An imposing 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, Campbell is widely lauded for his talents by coaches and players around the league.

Yet he has never made it to the Pro Bowl, something that Arians says "baffles" him.

One reason is the 3-4 defensive scheme the Cardinals use. That leaves Campbell inside to fight off double teams while others make the play. In the 4-3 system, defensive ends rush the passer and accumulate the kind of sack totals that result in a Pro Bowl invitation.

"When you start getting guys with all the sacks and stuff as rush ends in a 4-3, they're going to get the hype to go to the Pro Bowl," Arians said.

Last year, at least, he was a Pro Bowl alternate.

Campbell toils in the trenches and, as far as responsibilities go, his duties often are nearly the same as a defensive tackle.

"Me and (Darnell) Dockett pretty much do the exact same thing but he is considered a D-tackle and me a D-end," Campbell said, "but that's a good thing because when I got the franchise tag I got the defensive end money."

Campbell spent a mere two months as a franchise player in early 2012 before signing a five-year, $51 million contract, with $31 million guaranteed.

The defensive tackle-defensive end confusion even spread to quarterback Carson Palmer, who called Campbell "probably one of the more underrated D-tackles in the league."

In reality, Campbell plays all along the defensive line, depending on what set is employed by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

"I move around a lot," he said. "I play nose tackle sometimes ... and even outside on the tight end sometimes."

That versatility is a tribute to Campbell's athleticism, Arians said.

"He's got great extension and length. Also he bats a lot of balls down," the coach said. "It (his height) is an advantage as long as he can bend. Some tall guys can't bend, they have to stay out on the edge. He can bend so he can play all four positions across the front. His athletic ability allows him to do that."

Campbell was an integral part of a defense that ranked sixth overall and first against the run last season.

"It's a team effort," Campbell said. "It comes down to playing well with your team and motivating the guys around you. The good players make the ones around them better. Those are the guys who really are the top of the game, the ones that go out there and command double teams and don't get any stats but make the team around them better. The linebackers and other linemen are able to make big-time plays."

Two and a half weeks shy of his 28th birthday, he is in the prime of his career.

Despite the persistent double-teams, Campbell had a career-high nine sacks last season and 72 tackles. His 12 tackles for loss tied for most on the team. Campbell also forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles and had 27 quarterback pressures. It was the fifth straight season he had at least 50 tackles and six sacks.

And, no matter what anyone says, Campbell is a defensive end.

"I've always been a D-end growing up and I feel like a D-end," he said. "I want to compete against the best and I want to be considered the best just from hard work and dedication. Right now there's a lot of good players in this league. It feels good to be amongst them, but when it's all said and done I want to be the best in the game. That's always been the motivation."

NOTES: Arians said WRs Michael Floyd (groin) and Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) could be a game-time decision Saturday night at Minnesota. ... The coach said he doubted G Jonathan Cooper (toe) and ILB Kevin Minter (pectoral muscle) would be able to play against the Vikings.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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