JACKSONVILLE – He's ready, and he'll be on time.
Those were two big takeaways from a quick conversation with Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell at EverBank Field late Tuesday afternoon.
Campbell, an Associated Press All-Pro selection and the runner-up for the AP's Defensive Player of the Year honors in his first season with the Jaguars last season, covered several topics Tuesday. Chief among them:
The physical issues that kept him out of the Pro Bowl in early February are pretty much in the past, and he will be in attendance when the Jaguars open their offseason program April 16.
"I'm doing pretty good," Campbell said. "I'll be there. I feel like the only way for us to really go where we want to go is for us to grind together, and build that bond. We had a great bond and a chemistry that helped us win a lot of games.
"You have to redevelop that every year. It doesn't carry over. I'll definitely be here grinding with my teammates, building that chemistry we need so that when the game is on the line we can count on each other."
Here's the rest of senior writer John Oehser's quick conversation this week with Campbell:
Question: In the wake of the AFC Championship Game, it felt like that loss would take a while to get over. Is it in the past?
Answer: You use it to motivate you and drive you. Being that close and letting it slip away like that? It definitely drives you and hopefully has guys more motivated to push themselves harder. We know we're close. We can get over the hump with a little more work and guys focused to try to handle business.
Q: This thing gets rolling in a couple of weeks. Do you feel ready to look forward?
A: You definitely don't want to look too far behind. History is good if you're learning from it. We definitely want to learn the best we can from what happened last year for the guys who are back. It's a whole new year. We don't get to start where we ended last year. We have to start at 0-0 and earn our way to get back to that position and have an opportunity again. You have to win your division, get to the playoffs, then – if possible – play your best ball at the right time. We have to start back Day One, earn respect of the guys in the locker room, stay focused and motivated, and make sure we win.
Q: You've been a member of this team for a little more than a year now. Hard to believe it's been a year?
A: I wouldn't say hard to believe. It was definitely a fun year. We came up a little short. We said at the beginning of the year we were going to have big expectations for the team and we were going to have a special year – and it was. It ended a little differently than I would have liked – and a little sooner. I feel like we still have another opportunity in front of us and it's going to be a very talented team with high expectations. That's something new and something different, but I'm looking forward to embracing the challenge.
Q: Is that the biggest challenge for this team – dealing with higher expectations? It has been a long time since the Jaguars had those.
A: It's different when you're trying to earn respect than when you have a bull's eye on your back. At the end of the day, we haven't accomplished the goals we set out to accomplish. We still have a chip on our shoulders. Getting close but not getting there … you don't get a chance to really pat yourselves on the back. You still have to have a chip on your shoulder. I'm confident all of the guys will come in with the same mentality. We still have a lot to prove.
Q: And it doesn't seem like [Jaguars Head Coach] Doug [Marrone] will let this team pat itself on the back anyway …
A (Laughing): Between our coaching staff, especially Coach Marrone, and the leadership we have – we're going to keep guys focused and make sure we're working toward the right goals. Guys can't get too cocky with Coach Marrone.
Q: How about you personally? You had a remarkable individual season (a franchise-record 14.5 sacks). Do you think about how you can build on that personally or is it strictly about the team?
A: At the end of the day, I had no expectations last season on sacks or production personally. I just wanted to make sure we were working as a team. It obviously was a good formula but it's the same mentality this year. Obviously, I expect to succeed. I want to make plays and help the team win. I know the ultimate goal is to make sure I do my part to help the team. Whether I get 14 or 15 sacks again or I don't, it's just about making sure I'm here every day grinding and pushing the team to win the championship.
Q: Is this an easier offseason for you personally?
A: Last year was tough – going through free agency, learning a new system, having to move … those things are tough. This offseason definitely should be a lot easier and has been so far. It's just training. I know the playbook. I have a feel for the system and feel like I should get better in the system, hopefully. Hopefully that will result in more production on the football field and more wins.
Q: You've been playing a long time. Still excited about getting ready for a season?
A: I'm very excited. I haven't lost that love for the game. A lot of people say when you lose that love and it starts feeling like work it's time to hang them up. I can't wait to get back on the football field and go have some fun. It's the best job in the world.