June 15, 2010

Campbell: Kelly catching on again

Dave Campbell

The Edmonton Eskimos entered into training camp this season with something rather rare.  The same offensive coordinator from last season in Kevin Strasser and about seventy per cent of the personnel back from 2009.  The Eskimos had only one 1,000 yard receiver in Fred Stamps who ended up leading the CFL in reception yards.  During my Points After open line show following Eskimo games, a very popular question I would receive was “Hey Dave, I’m just wondering if you know when Kelly Campbell is coming back”. 

Campbell electrified Eskimo fans and CFL fans in general back in 2008 with his amazing speed, leading the league with over 22 yards per catch.  He scored seven touchdowns and recorded over 1,200 yards receiving.  He was part of an ‘08 receiving corps that was dynamic with the likes of Kamau Petersen who captured the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award.  Maurice Mann returned from the Washington Redskins of the NFL and scored four touchdowns in the final eight games and could’ve been another 1,000 yard man if he played a full season.  Stamps was just realizing how good he really could be and if it wasn’t for an ankle injury causing him to miss four games, he likely would have surpassed 1,000 yards too. 

Campbell though was looked upon as the big threat in the receiving corps; he ended up playing Jason Tucker’s old position as the slotback on the short side of the field.  He knew how to back off defenders with his blazing speed opening the field for either himself or his teammates.

After an absence in 2009 because of an NFL tryout, Campbell arrived at training camp last Friday looking to latch on with the green and gold.  The Eskimos could’ve used his offence last season when the team struggled to score points, especially in the red zone.  Now, Campbell will compete with the likes of Efrem Hill, Jason Barnes, and Skyler Green for a job in the receiving corps.  Things have changed since 2008 though; back then Danny Maciocia was calling the offense, now it’s Kevin Strasser.  Campbell needs to learn a new system so perhaps he’s lagging behind when you line him up against the rest of the competition. 

The response from the football club appears to be wait and see right now.  Both head coach Richie Hall and head scout Ed Hervey said if Campbell is committed to being Eskimo he’ll be welcomed with open arms, and be given a chance to contribute to the football club.  You couldn’t help but notice the smiles though.  Quarterback Ricky Ray says the possibility of lining up with both Campbell and Fred Stamps on the same side of the field will likely cause a lot of problems for opposing defences.

There is some concern though that Campbell is only here to showcase his skills for another shot in the NFL which ended last fall after a quad injury suffered while working out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  “You know, I don’t focus on the future”, said Campbell.  “Right now, I’m taking it one day at a time.  I’m with the Eskimos right now and that’s where my focus is at.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Right now, I’m up here to help win games for the Eskimos”.

General Manager and Director of Football Operations Danny Maciocia, who pursued Campbell for months, says he believes Campbell is committed to being a member of the green and gold.  “I was under the impression that he would be here for training camp”, said Maciocia.  “Things changed along the way.  It had nothing to do with him not being here, it’s just some things that took place back home for him that he had to address.  We only wanted him here if he was mentally ready to go.  He was extremely convincing over the last few days that that’s the case”.

The goal this week for Campbell is to show the coaching staff that he knows the offense well enough to play Sunday in Vancouver when the Eskimos play the B.C. Lions in their final pre-season game at Empire Field.  For Campbell, it can’t come soon enough for him.

“I’m happy to be back, I’m ready, I’m ready to get back on to the field and get around the guys, work hard and get on the team so we can have a great season this year”.

Time will tell.