GREEN BAY – Exactly one year to the day he was claimed off waivers by the Packers, Ibraheim Campbell was re-added to the team’s 53-man roster on Tuesday from the physically unable to perform list.
Now, both sides are hopeful the fifth-year safety can make a similar impact on defense and special teams as he did last year on short notice.
Campbell, who was brought in after Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was dealt to Washington at trading deadline, transitioned seamlessly into the scheme of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whom he previously played for as a rookie in Cleveland in 2015.
Despite the late arrival, Campbell racked up 18 tackles (15 solo) and a forced fumble in 112 defensive snaps over three games. He alternated between safety and a hybrid linebacker role, earning high marks for both his tackling and coverage.
Pro Football Focus credited Campbell with five stops and no missed tackles during that three-game stretch.
“He played the run really well,” said defensive end Dean Lowry, who played with Campbell at Northwestern. “He came downhill. He wasn’t afraid to come downhill and hit people. That’s kind of what he’s always prided himself on since he’s been in college.”
The string of strong outings earned Campbell his first start with the Packers against Arizona on Dec. 2. After recording eight tackles in the game, however, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound safety suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
The timing was unfortunate for Campbell, who never had experienced a significant season-ending injury before. With an expiring contract after the 2018 season, Campbell was forced to play the NFL waiting game.
He underwent surgery, rehabbed and was running again in four months. The Packers finally called in August to re-sign Campbell, placing him on PUP for the first half of the season before he returned to practice in Week 7 and was officially activated Tuesday.
“I feel great physically,” Campbell said. “I don’t even feel a difference when I’m out there running around. So, I’m playing as fast as I’ve ever played. I feel good out there.”
Campbell understood he likely was signed in August as an insurance policy in case something should happen to safety Raven Greene, who played the hybrid linebacker spot with the starting defense throughout the offseason program.
Greene got off to a great start against Chicago in Week 1, recording five tackles with a deflection, before suffering an ankle injury the following week against Minnesota. The injury landed Greene on IR and forced Pettine to reshuffle his defensive deck.
That resulted in Adrian Amos, Will Redmond and Josh Jackson all filling in at times next to linebacker Blake Martinez in that hybrid package the past two months. Based on Campbell’s skill set and history with Pettine, the Packers believe the returning safety could potentially help settle that spot.
“It’s just been kind of a revolving door,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. “We've had to put a lot of different people in different spots and I think this will help us in terms of allowing guys to stick to one spot, and maybe be a little bit sharper on the details so we can go out and play a little faster.”
Campbell, now 11 months removed from surgery and confident again in the knee, doesn’t make too big a deal out of whether he’s playing deep or in the box. He believes his tools enable him to fill both roles.
The past three months have been beneficial, though. They not only gave the safety closure with his rehab, but also allowed Campbell a chance to get acclimated to Green Bay’s locker room after a whirlwind November in 2018.
His return couldn’t have come with better timing for the Packers, who host the Carolina Panthers and MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey on Sunday. What’s more, Amos missed practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury. He’s played 596 of a possible 600 defensive snaps so far this season.
Campbell is ready to do whatever is asked of him. No different than the circumstances he faced as a waiver claim last year.
“I’ve been preparing as well as I possibly could up to this point,” Campbell said. “So I full anticipate going out there and playing well. It’s the opportunity I’ve been waiting for.”