Checking in with Daniels, Kampman

Aaron Kampan and Owen Daniels are both recovering from injuries that derailed their 2010 seasons. AP Photos, US Presswire

For the 2011 season to be better than 2010, the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars will need more production from tight end Owen Daniels and defensive end Aaron Kampman, respectively.

Daniels was coming off a torn right ACL last season. That happened Nov. 1, 2009. As he came back from the injury, he suffered a stress fracture of his knee cap. Not long after he returned from that, a hamstring injury slowed him down.

Kampman was coming of a torn left ACL suffered his final year in Green Bay. And eight games into his first year as a big free-agent acquisition, he suffered the same injury on the other leg and was forced to watch the Jaguars come up short in their bid to unseat the Colts atop the AFC South.

I had a chance to speak to them both this week. Here’s a bit on where they stand health-wise in mid-June.

Daniels had a setback last spring during rehabilitation when doctors found a stress fracture in his knee cap. That meant two months of not doing anything with his legs. By the time it healed up, it was late July and he had just a month to get ready to play.

“I wasn’t as strong as I could be in my lower body, I probably didn’t have the confidence that I had had even months before in my knee,” he said. “So it was something that was a little tough to get over. Any little pain that I felt in my knee would start to freak me out. When before I was like, ‘Oh, it’s rehab, there is soreness here and there.’

“It was tough to deal with during the first part of the season, ignoring some discomfort. It was less about the ACL and feeling like that was sturdy and more about the whole stress fracture and hoping that was healed up. Four or five games in I was starting to feel pretty good and then the hamstring came along. It was a little bit of a struggle, honestly.”

He had a big final month, which was a big deal considering his contract status.

Daniels knows torn ACLs -- he had the same injury in his left knee during high school and again in college.

His game is keyed largely on speed that allows him to run routes like a wide receiver in Houston’s precision offense.

He said he tries not to think about how the newest knee injury might affect that.

“I’ve been through rehabs and was able to come back and be fine, be no worse for the wear, honestly,” he said. “Those first two, I was stronger, my legs were sturdier just because of how much rehab and how much work you had to put in. That wasn’t really a fear in my mind. ACLs are pretty typical surgeries these days. I’m still young enough to be able to recover and feel good about it.”

The Texans obviously saw enough in his recovery to be reassured. They gave him a four-year, $22 million deal before the lockout.

Daniels was available to talk as he promoted his foundation program. “Owen's Locker” launches on June 22nd at Texas Children's Hospital. It supplies free games, DVDs and computers for chronically and critically ill children in the Houston area.

I was among those that thought the Jaguars would draft an end in the first round as they looked to finish a defensive line rebuild. Instead, they traded up to select quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

The move makes Kampman even more important for a team that is better up front but still did not rush the passer well in 2010.

As he completed his recovery from a left ACL tear suffered in Green Bay, Kampman told me the process was purifying. He echoed that sentiment this week in talking about going through it a second time after tearing his right ACL the following season.

“When you have the experience, have been down the road before, you know what’s to come, there is some familiarity with it,” he said. “I think that really helped me with the recovery this time -- knowing what to expect. After the first time I did it, the first time you jump, the first time you cut, the first time you do all these different things there is kind of a faith-growing experience if you will. ‘OK, I’m going to make sure everything works right.’

“This time I had a little more assurance of knowing, ‘Hey, everything is good,’ trusting it, knowing the things I was feeling were normal, especially early on. I think that was definitely a positive, having just done it the year before.”

He’s obviously not played football on it, so cannot declare himself fully recovered. But he said when the season starts, he anticipates things being just like they were last season. His camp work was measured and closely monitored, but he was ready for games.

He’ll turn 32 on Nov. 30, and many will presume an aging speed rusher with two reconstructed knees won’t be able to offer much for the Jaguars this season.

Kampman said he doesn’t really pay attention to such external potentially motivating forces.

“It’s making sure I know the form and the level that I can play at,” he said. “So to me it’s really challenging myself to be able to achieve those echelons, levels I know I’ve been gifted to reach. I know what I can do, let me see if I can make sure I am strong do all the things I need to get back to where I am capable of and then see if I can surpass it.

“Anyone who says there is no doubt, they just have a steel mind, no. There is no doubt in that I believe I will be able to come back and come back strong. But you fight every day. I think any athlete fights every day to be the best you can be. That’s the struggle, that’s the challenge, right? I think you’re constantly battling to be the best you can be with how you’re created. You have to make your body submit to all the demands.”

Kampman said he had a hard time watching the Jaguars’ crucial game in Indianapolis Dec. 19. The Jaguars could have clinched the division with a win, but lost the first of three straight, 34-24, and finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

We didn’t talk about how much of a career he has left in him, but he’s certainly not concerned about helping the Jaguars’ young ends prepare to make him disposable. The team’s unsupervised lockout workouts have been broken into pods and led by position group heads. Kampman’s captained the line’s work.

He said it’s been very healthy for developing leadership throughout the team, empowering a lot of guys.

“True leadership understands it is always working itself out of a job,” he said a professor once told him. “You’re always trying to pour into others for the betterment of the purpose and goal you’re trying to attain.”

Kampman was available to talk about it all as he promoted his work with "Compassion International." He and his family recently took two other Jaguars and their wives to El Salvador as part of his anti-poverty work.