Practice, charity events, massages: All in a week's work for Cardinals' Calais Campbell

Calais Campbell poses with family and friends in the bowels of University of Phoenix Stadium after the Cardinals' victory over the Bengals. Bruce Yeung

Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell gave ESPN.com an inside look into how he prepared for Sunday's matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.


When the Cardinals' plane landed in Phoenix after their 39-32 win over the Seattle Seahawks, Campbell looked at his watch.

It was 3:30 a.m.

An hour later, Campbell was home and asleep. He got a little shut-eye on the plane, but it wasn't easy.

"Most of the plane was going crazy because of the big win," Campbell said.

With another Sunday night game on the horizon, Campbell tried to get as much sleep as possible. He stayed in bed until 10:30 a.m.

His week, in earnest, began around noon when he arrived at the Cardinals' practice facility. After a quick breakfast, Campbell put himself through his own workout instead of one of the two team-mandated workouts per week with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. Monday's workout goal: get the blood flowing again after a 3-hour, 53-minute game. He also worked to get his footwork "back right."

He started on the elliptical to get his heart rate up. Then he stretched, did core work, jumped rope and stretched some more. When Campbell works out on his own, he doesn't follow a strict plan.

"I don't even know how many reps I'm doing," Campbell said. "I just go off feel." After, Campbell spent 20 minutes in the cold tub "because it's important." The cold helps reduce swelling and it drains lactic acid from tired muscles.

From the facility, Campbell went to pick up his sister, Keyonne, at the airport. She was flying back from Seattle, where she spent the weekend and went to the game. Calais planned to go to the movies, so Keyonne joined him for "Bridge of Spies," starring Tom Hanks.

The buzz around Phoenix created by the Cardinals' victory reached the movie theater. Campbell is friendly by nature so when fans approach, he tends to begin the interaction.

"I was trying to be incognito, but I'm 6-8 so I couldn't hide," he said. "I saw somebody walk up real fast and look back at me trying to see. ... I'm always friendly. I'm always like, 'Hey, how you doing?' They're just so excited to say, 'Go Cardinals' or 'good luck.' "

Campbell didn't realize the movie was 2 1/2 hours long, so when he and Keyonne exited the theater, he rushed home. Campbell changed for teammate Patrick Peterson's charity dinner, where players acted as servers at a Phoenix steakhouse.

The dinner featured a silent auction with an autographed Campbell jersey. Three people were bidding on it but instead of letting just the winner take the jersey home, Campbell made a deal with the bidders. If they all paid the same price -- the highest price -- Campbell would autograph a jersey for each of them.

"Everybody's a winner," Campbell said with a laugh. "Jerseys for everybody."

Campbell got back to his place around 10 p.m. and waited for a shipment of food to be delivered. He recently hired a chef who prepares his meals. Campbell, like most players, doesn't have time to cook and found himself eating poorly.

A late drop-off meant a late dinner. Campbell was sleeping with a full stomach by 11:30 p.m.


Tuesdays are the scheduled day off for the Cardinals.

By 7:15 a.m., Campbell was in the studio of 101.1 FM The Beat, a hip-hop radio station in Phoenix. He met one of the morning show's hosts, Nina Cruz, at charity functions over the years and she had invited him. Campbell spent 30 minutes in studio.

After the radio appearance, he went to work. From 8-10 a.m. every Tuesday Campbell sees his muscle therapist, who works on Campbell's nicks and bruises with massages and active release techniques.

After, Campbell grabbed lunch and went to the facility where he got in his Buddy Morris-led workout.

"With him it's planned," Campbell said. "He has a real big warm-up. It's real tedious. You don't really like doing it, but you know it works. You feel the benefits from it, but it's just so long and it burns, so you don't really want to do it."

After the workout, Campbell had a quick cold-tub session. Then he got a haircut before a TV appearance. Campbell was a guest on the CBS Sports show "We Need To Talk" and was interviewed by Tracy Wolfson and Swin Cash.

Campbell has expressed an interest in being behind the camera when his football days are over, making TV shows or movies. But the more he has been on camera, the more he likes it.

"At first I didn't really want to do it because I didn't know how good I'd be at it," Campbell said. "The more you do it, the more I like it. It's been fun."

By 3:30 p.m. he was back in a massage chair. This massage was to "get some more flow and get my body back right." What was supposed to be a two-hour massage ended closer to 6 p.m.

Between appointments, Campbell talked with his publicist about his "Thanksgiving Dinners for Families" event, in which he provides more than 250 dinners to families in need.

Campbell went home for dinner before heading to the Cardinals' practice facility to help host Football 101, an event to teach fans about how the Cardinals' operation works and what players do day to day. This year's event had more than 300 people, Campbell said.

"It's fun to just get a feel for the fans," Campbell said. "Everybody was so happy beating Seattle; everybody is so ecstatic.

"It makes you feel good. You work really hard and the cool thing about football is that it brings communities together. You see smiles on people's faces."


When Campbell's alarm went off at 6:15 a.m., he fought the urge to hit snooze. It's the start of a big week, as the Cardinals would play their second straight prime-time game, versus Cincinnati on Sunday night.

He got to the facility around 7:05, with more than enough time for a breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs and chicken sausage. While Campbell and his teammates ate, they talked about their win over Seattle.

Campbell's first meeting was at 7:30, run by Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who went over the good, bad and ugly from the Seattle win. Then, he went over what Campbell called the "highlights" of the week: what the Cardinals needed to do to beat the Bengals. At meeting's end, Arians handed out game balls. Campbell's defensive line cohort, Frostee Rucker, earned one.

"I was hyped for him," Campbell said.

Ten minutes after the team meeting, Campbell took part in the special-teams meetings. Then he got in a quick stretch and grabbed a couple of bottles of water before the 8:30 meeting. In it, he learns the week's game plan. Defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gives an intense speech on "how we need to dominate and why ... all that good stuff," Campbell said.

"Pretty much gets you hyped up."

Campbell started to learn the Bengals' tendencies, such as when quarterback Andy Dalton likes to pass, on what downs and distances and in which formations. Then, it's time for walk-through and practice.

"Once you walk-through it and go through all that stuff, you start getting a feel for it," Campbell said. "Then, in practice, you're going to make mistakes. You expect to make mistakes.

"That's when we make our mistakes. That mental error sheet is a lot higher, but we kept it fairly low. Everybody is focused and in tune. There are simply mistakes. All correctable."

Once practice ended, Campbell jumped in the cold tub for 15 minutes.

When he got home, his girlfriend, Rocio, was watching "Power," a show on Starz. And like the rest of America, Campbell has become good at binge-watching shows. They watched three episodes.

Campbell uses his down time, usually in front of the TV, to stay loose. He's constantly stretching and sometimes keeps his feet elevated while watching his favorite shows.

After their binge, Campbell watched the first half of Arizona's loss at Pittsburgh. By 10:30 p.m. he was sleeping.


By midweek, Campbell's routine becomes, well, routine.

His Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are the same every week. Meetings don't start until 8 a.m. on Thursdays, which allowed him an extra 35 minutes of sleep. Even breakfast becomes fairly repetitive. He had oatmeal -- but added apple sauce -- eggs and chicken sausage.

After he finished his special-teams meeting, with 20 minutes until the next meeting, Campbell got on his phone. He didn't text or watch videos. He read as much news as he could find about the Bengals. It's a trick he learned from Buckner. He found out who's practicing -- and who's not -- and what they were working on.

"They might slip up and give you something," Campbell said. "Plus, sometimes you get if coaches want to put emphasis on the running game or all that good stuff, or if the coach says the quarterback needs to play better, he may get more passes on first or second down. You watch the film and get a feel for it."

Over his career, Campbell has learned to watch for specific tendencies. Campbell said Dalton is "kind of sneaky" with his hard count.

"He'll try to lull you to sleep," Campbell said. "He'll quick count you, quick count you and then he'll get up and hard count you."

Campbell headed home after practice for 20 minutes before going to host a radio show at Dan Majerle's sports bar in Chandler, Arizona. The crowd was still buzzing off the Seattle win. Campbell's guest was rookie nose tackle Rodney Gunter, whom Campbell chided for a sub-par "dab" dance. He told the rookie the only way to make up for it was to get a sack against the Bengals.

After signing autographs for 30 minutes after the show, Campbell went home to eat a steak with broccoli and sweet potatoes.

He couldn't resist the temptation. He watched another episode of "Power" before watching some film and going to sleep.


Campbell arrived at the Cardinals' practice facility at 6:45 a.m. He had oatmeal and was lifting by 7 a.m. He did enough upper-body work to break a sweat but with the game two days away, Campbell didn't push it.

After his workout, Campbell continued his breakfast routine: chicken sausage and eggs.

"Same thing every day," he said. "I don't know why, but it's worked out."

The Cardinals had their team meetings Friday morning and got in their final 90-minute practice of the week. Then it was time for their weekly defensive players-only meetings.

It was Campbell's turn to address the defense. He spent all of Thursday night and practice Friday morning thinking about the right words to motivate his peers. When it was his time, the speech was unrehearsed and from the heart.

"I really don't remember what I said," Campbell said with a laugh.

"The main thing I wanted to get across was that we still haven't played our best ball, and also that beating Seattle doesn't get you anywhere. Winning seven games doesn't get you anywhere. We have a long way to go to get to where we want to be."

Then he went for another massage at 2 p.m., followed by an appointment with his muscle therapist. By the time he got home at 6:30 p.m., Campbell was beat. He turned down a chance to see the comedian Charlie Murphy at a Phoenix comedy club with his sister, Keyonne, instead opting for some black cod and brown rice for dinner and another two episodes of "Power."

"I was only going to watch one, but the one was so good, I had to watch the next one," Campbell said.

By 10:40 p.m., Campbell was fast asleep.


Three weeks ago, the Cardinals moved their Saturday back an hour to give players a little extra rest.

Campbell was able to sleep until 7:30 a.m. and was in the locker room by 8:30 a.m. to review tape.

During the 9 a.m. meeting, coaches reviewed the officiating crew and hammered which penalties they called with frequency. In the defensive line room, Campbell & Co. broke down tape before Buckner played a YouTube video of motivational speaker Eric Thomas, something he does every Saturday.

After, the Cardinals had their walk-through. The cold tub was colder than usual after practice, down from around 40 degrees to about 28 or 30.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures," Campbell said. "The colder, the better, I guess."

After his dip, it was family time for Campbell.

He took out a group of 20 family and out-of-town friends to Lucille's, a local BBQ restaurant.

While his family and friends went to a comedy club to watch his brother perform his stand-up routine, Campbell headed to the team hotel, arriving a couple of minutes late for Bible study. All 30 seats were taken. Anthony Edwards, the team's director of player development who is also a minister, led the sermon.

Before and after the meeting, Campbell and his teammates watched college football. Smack talk was flying as loyalties ran deep. After the meeting, the players gathered for ice cream and cookies.

Curfew was at 11.


For the second straight week, Campbell has to wait all day to play. But he still woke up at 7:30 a.m. at the hotel. After a breakfast of waffles, hash browns, turkey sausage and an omelet followed by "a whole bunch" of watermelon, Campbell headed home.

Players can either stay at the hotel all day or go home. They just have to be at the stadium two hours before kickoff.

He was home from about 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and spent most of the day watching the Red Zone channel. His girlfriend made his pregame meal: grilled chicken, broccoli and brown rice. After, Campbell got in a 30-minute nap.

Heavy traffic delayed his arrival at University of Phoenix Stadium until 4:10 p.m. MT, 20 minutes before check in.

Night games had been messing with Campbell's body, which has been cramping more lately. One theory is the late games allow him to get excited for longer, draining his energy throughout the day.

Once in the locker room, he drank a bottle of Pedialyte. He has stopped going on the field to warm up because it tires him out. His new routine consists of the hot tub, a shower, stretching for 30 minutes on his own, putting some of his game attire on (socks, pants, leg pads, cleats), then he getting stretched by trainers before putting on his shoulder pads, jersey and gloves. Then he gets taped.

Campbell roused the troops with a pregame speech. He has learned it's not what he says but how he says it.

"It's funny because you always want to say the right thing," he said. "It's loud and you just want the energy to be high so it doesn't really matter what I say. Just got to say it with passion and energy."

He tried to keep that energy during a dismal first half that saw the Cardinals go down by a touchdown after two interceptions by Carson Palmer. While some players yelled and screamed at one another during halftime, Campbell played the role of peacemaker.

"That's the way it goes," he said. "Emotions are high."

Campbell kept his pads on at halftime, drank two bottles of water and ate half of a Gatorade energy bar.

In the second half, Campbell hurt his ribs and took a knee. He wanted to make sure he could breathe without pain. Doctors put him through a short test to see if his ribs were broken. They weren't.

The Cardinals won 34-31 on a last-second field goal. Campbell went from locker to locker afterward, congratulating teammates. After media obligations, Campbell took his time getting out of his pads.

"I'm consistently the last one to leave the locker room," he said. "I can't help but move slow. My energy is basically on 'E.' I don't have anything left in the tank."

A large group of friends and family gathered for pictures, hugs and high-fives afterward before they made their way to a bar to celebrate.

"It was very simple," he said. "With 'victory Monday' you can do that."