Colts’ Parris Campbell: ‘I felt like myself again’

Indianapolis Colts

Parris Campbell #15 of the Indianapolis Colts lines up during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 13, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – That’s Parris Campbell.

Not the gifted second-round draft pick who battled four significant injuries that obstructed his rookie season.

Not the big-play threat who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after setting an Ohio State record with 90 catches, 12 of them for touchdowns, in 2018 only to appear in seven games and finish with 18 catches as an NFL neophyte.

“I felt like myself again,’’ Campbell said earlier this week.

The smile was there as he spoke on a Zoom conference call. An unmistakable confidence backed it up.

Both were byproducts of Campbell’s first step into year 2. Consider it an individual silver lining in a collective clunker.

While the Colts were dropping their seventh straight season opener – it was Jacksonville 27, Indy 20, in case you had forgotten – their eager wideout was setting career highs with six receptions and 71 yards. He also picked up a first down with his legs in the third quarter, scooting 9 yards on a misdirection pitch from Philip Rivers around right end.

Of course, it’s worth nothing Campbell couldn’t contain himself at the end of the run. He was whacked by linebacker Myles Jack, promptly popped up and “flexed’’ in Jack’s face. That brought a 15-yard penalty for taunting.

“I love the fact that Parris has that kind of juice and that kind of toughness,’’ said Frank Reich, “but that’s definitely something you have to learn from, and you can’t afford that 15-yard penalty.

“It was a knee-jerk reaction. He’ll learn from it, and we’ll learn from it.’’

Aside from allowing his competitive juices to get the better of him on that play, Campbell showcased the skills that prompted Chris Ballard to invest the 59th overall pick in the ’19 draft in him. He was a force on crossing routes, and his speed was obvious.

Campbell has made a strong first impression with Rivers.

“I always felt like he was a fourth-, fifth-year guy. I don’t know why,’’ he said. “Then you realize this is his second year. The first year he had so many injuries (and) didn’t play a ton.

“I mean, the ceiling’s so high for him. The sky’s the limit. He’s a strong, fast guy. You saw some of that last week in some of those deep ‘overs’ he caught and the reverse and some other things as well.’’

Reich described Campbell’s opener as “a good start.’’

“I think there is even more in there,’’ he added. “In fact, I think there is a lot more in there. I’m really excited about Parris. I have been from day 1.

“He’s versatile, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s smart, he’s disciplined. He’s everything we want.’’

At the top of the list: Campbell was available. He was on the field for 82% of the offensive snaps.

And that, after all, is every player’s starting point. Be available.

Last season, Campbell was on the field for just 196 of 1,077 snaps (18.2%). Blame a hamstring in training camp and three in-season injuries: Oct. 4 hernia surgery, a fractured right hand Nov. 3 at Pittsburgh and a broken right foot Dec. 8 at Tampa Bay.

So you’ll understand Campbell’s contained giddiness for being on the field and contributing. His eagerness was evident even though he had to overcome yet another injury in training camp, albeit not from anything football-related. Campbell was involved in an Aug. 26 automobile accident that trashed his car and left him with a concussion.

“Just another bump in the road,’’ he said in the days leading up to the opener. “But I’m healthy. I’m good.

“Man, I’m super-excited. It’s week 1. It’s here. It’s been a long, long offseason, but it’s finally here. I was telling some of the wideouts . . . I’ve just been filled with energy, waking up every day with a smile. I’m just ready to go. I’m excited it’s finally here.’’

Again, Campbell’s ’19 debut was just a start. But perhaps the start of something big. Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni will maximize the potential of their 6-0, 208-pound wideout.

“He looked fast, he looked explosive . . . everything that we’ve seen at practice that he necessarily hasn’t been able to show in games due to obviously some injuries that happened last year,’’ Sirianni said. “So it was great to get him out there and see those things and let the country see those things of what we can do because obviously he is a big-time playmaker.

“Just like any of our playmakers, just keep getting them the ball in a variety of different ways. Parris shows that he can get the ball down the field on the 15-to-20-yard intermediate section . . . we can get it to him in an underneath, and most certainly we can go up top with it.’’

Whatever it takes, Campbell insisted.

“I’m 100% comfortable,’’ he said. “Whatever they ask me, I feel like I have the ability to go out and do those things.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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