Campbell On the Fringe

BOURBONNAIS - The temperature hit three digits Sunday. Darrell Campbell was dripping with sweat in the 100-degree heat, but couldn't wipe the smile off his face during the first day of training camp.

"This was really fun. Even though I'm breathing hard, I was so anxious to be out here," said Darrell Campbell, a defensive tackle with the Bears. "I'm just seriously thankful to God for being here. It's been a long road, it really has.

"I made some mistakes today, but I did some good things, too."

Campbell, a Notre Dame grad, was projected to be a second- or third-round draft pick in the 2004 draft. But while working out for the Baltimore Ravens, he partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee and underwent surgery.

No NFL team took a chance on him in the draft, so Campbell inked a free agent deal with the Bears. He was out of football all last season, while the Bears picked up the dime on his rehabilitation. Sunday was another step toward recovery for Campbell.

"Darrell is tremendous," said fellow Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, last year's first-round pick. "He's a guy who epitomizes work ethic. The guy comes out everyday and goes at it 110 percent. Guys get mad at him because he goes full speed every play. But that's just the type of guy he is.

"He's like a guy that has a second chance at living. You see death and then it's like you come back to life. That's how Darrell is. He's come back full tilt and he looks good."

Campbell, a 6-foot-4, 290-pounder, started three seasons at Notre Dame. He finished with 87 tackles (48 solos), 23 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 sacks during his career. His stock for the '04 draft rose after a stellar Senior Bowl and the NFL combine. But the knee injury scared off everybody and Campbell went from likely receiving a big payday to looking for work.

"It's a very humbling experience," Campbell said. "You really know who your true friends are, your allies and who your confidants are when you're down and out, and that's what I was. This organization took a chance on me and I just don't want to let them down."

Campbell still isn't out of the woods. Physically he feels great, but the Bears are stocked on the defensive line. Campbell's wearing No. 67 -- sharing the number with guard Matt McGhghy -- so he knows it's going to be an uphill battle to grab a roster spot or a place on the practice squad.

"To be honest, I know the challenges in front of me and I know this team is deep," Campbell said. "But I don't want to change who I am because that's what got me here in the first place. The Bears took a major chance on me and this is my favorite team ever. I just want to get better and catapult myself into the rotation.

"I'll do anything I can to keep myself alive in this organization."

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