Calais Campbell knows what is in his control and what isn’t.
For example, the Arizona Cardinals' 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end knows the method people use to select who plays in a Pro Bowl is out of his control. But he also knows he can control his play on the field, which could help sway the powers that be.
Being named to the 2013 Pro Bowl as an alternate was a disappointment for Campbell, who recorded a career-high nine sacks while anchoring the Cardinals’ No. 1 rush defense. The difference, he believes, between a booked ticket to Hawaii last season and waiting idly by for the phone to ring, was a few plays.
“I left a lot of plays on the field last year,” Campbell told ESPN.com. “There were times I had opportunities to make plays and I didn’t, and maybe if I made those few extra plays I missed I probably would’ve had that call. But it is a goal of mine.
“I do want to go to the Pro Bowl. It’d be a great achievement for anybody.”
Two weeks before training camp begins, Campbell, who is entering his seventh season, feels like he is in the right place to be considered an NFL all-star. While it is a goal, Campbell's focus isn’t solely on the Pro Bowl. His ideal situation would be to earn a nod but have to decline the invitation because the Cardinals are playing in Super Bowl XLIX. Both games, however, will be hosted on Campbell’s home turf, University of Phoenix Stadium.
The validation that comes with being a Pro Bowler is important for any player. But for Campbell, it would just be the next step in him becoming a bona fide NFL star. For the past couple seasons he has been teetering on the edge of stardom, but playing on losing teams and for a franchise that doesn’t receive much national attention has slowed that process.
Now 27, Campbell is ready.
“I’m very ready,” he said. “I want to have an ability to lead my team to a Super Bowl and win one. I feel like now is better than any other time. If I’m going to become the elite player I want to be, it has to be now. I put all the work in to be the best I can be.”
Being elite and being a Pro Bowl player have become nearly synonymous in the NFL.
One will beget the other. If Campbell becomes an elite player in 2014, he will likely be named to the Pro Bowl. If he is named to the Pro Bowl, Campbell will likely be considered an elite player. Until recently, Campbell didn’t feel like he had the opportunity to truly be considered for the Pro Bowl. Coming off a career season, that is likely to change.
“It’s just something,” Campbell said, “that I feel like is something has been a long time waiting.”