JACKSONVILLE – Calais Campbell likes what he sees.
He has felt this way before, and the Jaguars’ defensive leader said he absolutely feels that way about what’s going on in the 2019 offseason.
“I’ve got a real good vibe about it again,” Campbell said shortly after practice Monday on Day 7 of Jaguars 2019 organized team activities at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
Campbell, a 12-year veteran and one of the team’s vocal and locker-room leaders, felt that way long before many others in 2017 – the year the Jaguars surprised many observers by winning the AFC South and advancing to the AFC Championship Game.
His reasoning for feeling good now is simple and focuses on what he’s seeing during this voluntary period of the offseason.
“It’s just the way we’re working,” he said. “We’re working to get better. There’s a lot of learning going on. Guys are getting better each and every day. You can see development as practices go along.
“That’s a good feeling. We do have a lot of young guys who are stepping up and developing and trying to show they know what they’re doing. That’s important. Opportunities are there.
“I’m excited to see where we’re going. We’re in a good spot right now.”
Campbell – a Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons who has registered double-digit sacks in each of those seasons – called the current late-May, early-June on-field portion of the offseason the most tedious part of preparing for a season.
“You wait so long for the reward from what we do now,” he said, “but each day you get better. This is what got me to Year 12. I’ve always shown up. The biggest thing for me is I like being around the guys. I like being in the locker room, talking to the coaches. For me, this is where I really try to get to know my teammates.
“By the time the season starts, and everything starts flying different ways, you only get so much better. Right now, you really work on the small things. You go back to basics, to really work on the small details of the game.”
Still, he said it doesn’t bother him in that vein that several prominent players have missed some or all of OTAs. All offseason practices including OTAs are voluntary under NFL rules except for next week’s June 11-13 mandatory minicamp.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith have not participated in any of the first seven OTA practices. Wide receivers Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook and running back Leonard Fournette have missed multiple OTAs, as has defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
“To me, those guys are guys I’m not worried about,” Campbell said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Jalen Ramsey is working very hard right now. He’s got a good work ethic. I’m confident in that. I saw Yann this weekend. He looks in incredible shape: We were talking about his workout; he’s working hard.
“I’m not too worried about those guys. The guys who need to be here are here. They’re going to get better and take advantage of it. At the end of the day, this is a voluntary period. The guys who are here, we’re going to put the work in. We’re going to get better. We’re going to laugh and joke and have a good time.”
Campbell on Monday also discussed Smith, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2017 season who last month announced on Instagram that he didn’t plan to play in 2019.
“I talked to him, and I understand where he’s coming from,” Campbell said. “I still hold out a little hope that he might be able to get everything in order so that he’ll be ready by the time the season starts. But at the end of the day, this game is tough. It takes a lot out of you. You have to sacrifice so much to be good at it.
“When you have things going on that you have to handle, I can respect that. I understand. We sacrifice a lot to be out here, each and every day. He knows I have much love. My heart’s with him. I’ll continue to talk to him.
“I know he loves the game. He makes us better, so I’d love to have him.”