Arizona's big DE Campbell having breakout season

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By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Calais Campbell sat at his locker surrounded by reporters. Leaning against a wooden panel nearby was a framed photograph of his blocked field goal against the St. Louis Rams five weeks ago.

The Rams would have won the game with the kick, but Campbell's block forced overtime, and Arizona won 19-13 on Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return.

The victory set off a string of four wins in five games for Arizona and is one of many examples of why Campbell, with his powerful 6-foot-8, 300-pound frame, is so important to the Cardinals.

"Calais has developed into such a good player because he's worked hard at it," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He's a good man and he really wants to do it the right way. He's very conscientious."

Campbell is easygoing and always friendly off the field, but he can be a beast in the backfield.

"I don't want to play angry. I just want to win," he said. "I'm a huge competitor. I go out there and just play my heart out, but I'm never really angry. I'm laughing and joking out there on the field. I'm not ever angry."

That would not be true of the man lining up next to him, tackle Darnell Dockett.

"That's a whole different story," Campbell said, laughing.

The Cardinals obviously expected big things from this big man when they chose him in the second round, the 50th pick overall, out of Miami in the 2008 draft.

From the beginning, Campbell has struggled to stay low at the line of scrimmage so he's not a big, easy target for blockers.

"He's always going to struggle with that," Whisenhunt said. "It's not something that you ever conquer as a guy that's as tall as he is, so it's really critical that you work on your technique and your hands and staying low.

"There's other times when it's to his advantage, when he's in space and he can use those arms to swing guys and get past them."

He also can deflect or alter a lot of passes and, of course, leap to knock down field goals.

Campbell has a team-high six sacks for 45 yards, a team-leading 14 quarterback hits - to Dockett's 12 - with an interception and a forced fumble. He has deflected seven passes.

Campbell traces his improvement to a growing maturity.

"I think just natural growth," he said. "You become a lot more wiser on how to beat people. When you play long enough in competition in anything you become better at it."

He has flourished in the new defense installed by first-year coordinator Ray Horton.

"Coach Horton is really smart at utilizing his best players, realizing our talent so we can be the best we can be at our different positions," Campbell said. "So the scheme definitely helps."

Campbell grew up in Aurora, Colo., in a football-playing family. His older brother, Ciare, played defensive back at Colorado State. Younger brother Jared also went to Miami and signed as a rookie free agent with Arizona, but was released before the season.

Campbell said he has been 6-8 since he was 15.

"When I got to high school I was like 6-foot and within a year and a half, two years I was 6-8," he said, "so I guess you'd call that a growth spurt."