JACKSONVILLE – Calais Campbell's not stunned, exactly.
Campbell, the Jaguars' new defensive end, said he had an idea of what to expect from his new teammates – that there were a lot of young players with a lot of speed, quickness, athleticism, etc.
The extent of that potential? No, Campbell said – he didn't quite expect that.
"I knew there was a lot of talent here, but I was surprised how talented these guys were," Campbell said.
Campbell, who signed with the Jaguars as unrestricted free agent in March after nine seasons with Arizona, sat down with jaguars.com Thursday during Phase 2 of the team's voluntary offseason program. Phase 3 of the offseason – organized team activities and minicamp – will begin Tuesday, so Campbell is about halfway through his first offseason with his new team.
The OTAs that will begin next week are important, he said, because the groundwork for what Doug Marrone is building in his first season as head coach with a new team will continue to be laid.
But the two-time Pro Bowl selection emphasized this throughout the interview:
He believes the pieces are in place for this franchise to win – not in the future, but now.
"I truly believe this team has every piece to the puzzle," Campbell said. "We don't need anything else."
Here's the rest of senior writer John Oehser's conversation with Campbell:
Question: The Jaguars signed you in part for your leadership. How do you bring that to a new environment?
Answer: "I feel like leadership is a natural thing. Some people are born to be leaders. Some people, they're not going to excel as much at it. There are guys on this team who are born leaders, who already possess that ability. My job is to come in and help people become the best versions of themselves, to help them win games. I feel like I was born with the ability to lead. I've been a captain on every level, but most of the time it's really just earning guys' respect. That's the goal: lead by respect, lead by example. If you're not doing everything the right way, if you're not taking care of details, how can you hold somebody else accountable?
Q: So, you're not driving to EverBank Field in the morning saying, "OK, how am I going to lead today?"
A: (Laughing) No, but there are times you're looking for a message to get guys to bring more energy. There are times when you're thinking about, "What's my message? What am I going to say to help us?" Because I'm thinking about the end goal. The first step of our goal is to get to the playoffs, to win the division – because that guarantees a playoff spot. From there, what's going to separate us from past teams, to allow us to get to the Super Bowl? Then what's going to allow us to actually believe we can win a Super Bowl? That's just the ongoing process of creating that belief system that we can do it. We have the pieces to the puzzle already here.
Q: And it's clear you believe that – that the talent is here to win.
A: All we have to do is take care of the small details, and put the things in place. The front office is doing a great job making it competitive, bringing the right guys in to compete. That will allow us to continue to get better. I have confidence in this coaching staff to prepare us so we're all moving in unison. And I have confidence that my teammates are going to leave it all on the field every day, trying to win now. We have big goals, lofty goals, but all of that will take care of itself. Right now we're going to take care of the details.
Q: What has impressed you about your teammates?
A: Honestly, there are a lot of guys who have impressed me off the rip. Take a guy like [linebacker] Telvin Smith. He's going into his fourth year. I didn't know him before, but you can tell he's a natural born leader and I think he's getting that confidence. He's comfortable in a role bringing guys along. You get around him and you can't help but get better.
Q: You were in Arizona nine years. That's a long time. Does this feel like home yet?
A: I believe home is where your comfort system is. Everywhere is home if you have the people around you who will allow you to be the best version of yourself. Coming in and hanging out with the guys, getting to know them … I feel like I've already gained a bunch of friends.
Q: Can that be rejuvenating?
A: It's a fresh start. It's definitely a fresh start. The last time I came into a new place I was a 21-year-old kid. Now I'm a 30-year-old man. It's a big difference. Every team is going to look different every year, but the bulk of your core is going to stay the same. So, there's a familiarity you get used to. When you come into a place where you don't know anybody, you have to focus on the small details even more than you normally would because every detail is new information. I've definitely worked a lot harder than I have in a long time in the offseason. I always work hard, but there's just naturally a lot more to focus on.
Q: You come from a place known for a disciplined, no-nonsense approach. Are you feeling that here?
A: Yes. Coach Marrone is cut from the same cloth as B.A. [Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians]. He's a determined guy. He comes out with a game plan that's laid out for you. It's all organized so you know what you have to do. There's no gray area. For me, it's similar to what I'm used to with a sense of holding people accountable.
Q: What's the one thing that has stood out about this team the most in your few weeks?
A: I knew the team was very talented, but getting here and working with the guys and seeing the drills we do and how athletic the team is … this team is very athletic. You just look at the depth. There's a competition factor, bringing in guys competing for starting roles. And I wouldn't say I was surprised by it, but the team is young. I knew that coming in, but the team is young. There are a lot of guys in that fourth or fifth year. There aren't a lot of guys in that seven-plus range.
* Q: OTAs coming up … that's the most high-profile period of the offseason program. What's important to accomplish during that period?*
A: You can't put the cart before the horse. It's one day at a time and just getting better and winning the day. Right now, we're in installs. We're installing and getting in good shape. That's the name of the game right now. OTAs is just showing we know what we're doing and showing we know the techniques and responsibilities. Once you get the techniques and responsibilities, then it's all execution.