INDIANAPOLIS – By this point of training camp last year, Parris Campbell was already sidelined with the first of four different injuries during his rookie season.
Practice time was limited.
His minimal game action never led to the big plans the Colts had (and still have) for him.
That ate at Campbell, as he watched several of his rookie wideout brethren impact as rookies.
Here in his second NFL training camp, the electric Campbell is healthy and impressing his head coach.
“He looks strong, fast, smart, explosive, good hands, understands the offense, consistent,” Frank Reich says. “It’s early but that’s what we are looking for from him. Now we just need that to continue to build.”
Watching Campbell in practice—something that did not happen much last camp with him injuring his hamstring early on at Grand Park—you see the rare gear he can get to in the open field and how he excels at creating separation on various underneath routes.
You can tell it’s such a relief for Campbell to be on the field, something that was not an issue during his collegiate days.
“This offseason I really challenged myself to just come back in the best shape of my life,” Campbell says. “Mentally and physically, I feel like I’ve done that. That’s just allowed me to play freely on the field. I’m comfortable. I’m just glad to be finally healthy.
“I’m having a blast out there just being able to play freely, no injuries, no setbacks. It’s definitely fun to just be out there again.”
Both Reich and Campbell point to Campbell’s mental capacity within the offense also being at a different level in 2020.
For a guy who was used more as a gadget weapon in college, becoming a full route tree wideout, while also playing primarily in the slot, some growth and development was needed in this system.
“It’s just going back to that comfortable level,” the Ohio State product says. “Last year I came in just learning new plays, learning a new offense. I would just say, I’m much more comfortable, and it’s kind of like clockwork when I hit the field. I’m not thinking a whole lot like I was last year and I can just go out and play. Every day there’s new plays that we run. There are going to be mistakes made, but just from being comfortable in the system, I’m able to learn from them and just keep pushing forward, keep playing fast. It’s definitely good to be comfortable in the system.”
As Reich and the offense are trying to get another young wideout up to speed (Michael Pittman), the head coach sees where a rookie’s head is at versus someone who has at least been in the system for a year.
“I think mentally Parris is a really smart guy,” Reich says. “But as I said before even with (Michael Pittman), there is always an adjustment for receivers just because there is a lot going on in the offense and a lot that you are responsible to know. We have high expectations there. That is why we always try to draft smart guys, of which Parris is one of those, but I think that he just has complete command. You see the confidence breaking the huddle. You can see the rookie receivers breaking the huddle thinking, ‘OK, what do I got? Where is my alignment?’ To Parris, that is all automatic and that just allows his physical gifts to come forward, which obviously we all know he has many of those.
“I just think you’re seeing that in his play. He just looks very confident.”
And with Philip Rivers propensity of getting the ball out quick, you can envision more and more touches in space for Campbell.