TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Calais Campbell stands an imposing 6-foot-8 and weighs 300 pounds, making him one of the tallest defensive linemen in the NFL.
The size of the Arizona Cardinals' defensive end can be a blessing and a burden — a blessing because he can swat away passes and field goal tries and bury hapless quarterbacks, a burden because he has to constantly remember to stay low lest he be an easy target for blockers.
"This is a battle I've been going through my whole life," he said after practice Wednesday. "The name of the game is stay low, the low man always wins.
"When it comes to batting down passes and blocking field goals, being tall definitely comes in handy, but you have to stay low first."
Last season was a breakout one for Campbell, and he has been rewarded with a five-year, $55 million contract extension, with $31 million guaranteed.
He acknowledged that, with the big contract comes added pressure to perform.
"I guess naturally it puts a burden on you a little bit," Campbell said. "But I put a big burden on myself to go out there and be the best I could be. I'm very passionate about this game. I love what I do. I want to be held accountable and I want to be worth every dollar they gave me."
A second-round draft pick out of Miami in 2008, Campbell has led or tied for the team lead in sacks each of the past three seasons. Last year, he had eight sacks, 73 tackles and 11 passes defensed, two forced fumbles , a fumble recovery and a whopping three blocked field goals — all career highs.
The three blocked field goals tied Seattle's Red Bryant for most in the NFL. Campbell was the leading force on a team that had an NFL-high five blocked field goals last season. He has five blocks in his career.
The most dramatic one came on Nov. 6 against St. Louis when he knocked down Josh Brown's 42-yard attempt on the last play of regulation. Arizona went on to win the game in overtime.
"I learned that if I do things the right way, I can be very dominant in this league," Campbell said. "I got a lot of confidence from last year. I'm looking forward to this year to see if I can do better. That's the challenge, to try to do better, to get better every year, every game, every week."
The Cardinals open their season Sunday at home against Seattle, a favorite foe of Campbell's.
He had 2 1/2 sacks against the Seahawks in their first meeting a year ago, marking the third time against Seattle he had at least one quarterback sack. In last year's regular-season finale, he had a solo tackle and quarterback hit against the Seahawks before leaving with an ankle injury in the second quarter.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that there's one simple way Campbell can be even better, though, a reason the big lineman already knows all too well.
"Play better technique," Whisenhunt said. "I think one of the things with him being 6-foot-8 is playing too high sometimes. If he can continue to work on staying lower and using his hands, it will make him an even better player. I like to think about those kinds of things because was productive as he was for us last year, if he can improve on that, it will make us a better football team."
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