GREEN BAY – This was the outcome Ibraheim Campbell envisioned, though the fifth-year safety has been around the NFL long enough to know things don’t always work out.
Before re-signing with the Packers on Thursday, Campbell spent the past eight months working towards a comeback after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last December against Arizona.
Claimed off waivers from the New York Jets on Nov. 5, 2018, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound safety made a smooth in-season transition to the Packers’ scheme. He had a leg up on most late additions after playing for current Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in Cleveland back in 2015.
Campbell posted eight tackles in back-to-back games for the Packers before tearing his ACL on a punt play against the Cardinals on Dec. 2, a game he actually started on defense.
Team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie performed Campbell’s surgery shortly thereafter. While rehabbing in Pennsylvania, Campbell flew back to Green Bay three or four times for checkups, with the intention of playing in 2019.
“It’s always an unknown,” he said. “That’s kind of the nature of the NFL. I felt like I left a good impression with these guys. I’m appreciative of them giving me another opportunity… and I intend to make the most of it.”
While Campbell will start on the physically unable to perform list, re-signing with the Packers was a step in the right direction. He spent the early portion of Saturday’s practice on the sideline doing leg exercises with a resistance band.
Campbell said he’s been running since April and feels confident in the knee. At this point, it’s mainly “waiting on science” and not risking a potential re-tear. Mentally, he never doubted his chances at mounting a comeback.
“I’ve never had any major injuries like this in terms of ACL but you deal with different things,” Campbell said. “All you can do is take it one day at a time, so that’s what I did. Tried to make the most of every day, build days upon days and you get somewhere.”
A fourth-round pick in 2015, Campbell is actually the oldest of the nine safeties on the Packers’ roster. Once he’s cleared, Campbell will be competing with five veterans with NFL experience to back up offseason addition Adrian Amos and rookie first-round pick Darnell Savage.
Working in Campbell’s favor is his past experience in Pettine’s scheme and positional flexibility. He not only filled in at deep safety in his three appearances last season, but he also took a few reps as a hybrid box safety in the dime package.
Campbell is no stranger to competing for a job, either, after spending time with the Browns (37 games), Texans (one game), Cowboys (four games) and Jets (one game) over the past few seasons. His maturity is something that quickly resonated with Pettine and the defensive coaching staff.
“He's a consummate professional,” secondary coach Jason Simmons said. “He’s a veteran guy that's been around. He doesn't take anything for granted for the simple fact that he's been on multiple teams and he realizes the opportunity and he looks to seize it every time he gets a chance.”
Campbell isn’t surprised to be back this soon. Once he’s back on the field, the fifth-year veteran expects to pick up right where he left off in Pettine’s defense.
“This isn’t a complicated game,” Campbell said. “A lot of times you get caught up over-complicating things. He’s a great coach. He has a great system. It was kind of familiar stepping back into it. I felt like I did well because of that.”