Most anticipated that the Giants would try to acquire an outside receiver who could be the “true number one” that they lacked in 2022. Campbell, on the other hand, was primarily a slot receiver for the Colts. And while the team certainly needed more players with explosive athleticism, such as Campbell, his wasn’t a name commonly linked with the Giants.
Campbell’s experience in free agency was a surprise to him as well.
“Free agency was a little funny, was a little weird,” he said on Wednesday. “As you guys know, the receiver market was kind of slow the first couple days. Deep down in my heart, it was kind of scary, having been in Indy for four years. It was scary, the thought of having to go somewhere new, move my family, all that stuff. But like when I really thought about it, you know what I’m saying, it was a new opportunity.”
And Campbell probably needed a fresh start after the rocky beginning to his career in Indy. He was a rookie when Andrew Luck suddenly retired at age 29 in 2019, and Campbell he never played in more than 7 games in any of his first three seasons.
“I thought it [free agency] would be different. But looking at my past, having dealt with all those injuries, it’s tough for a team to invest long-term off of one year,” Campbell said. “So, the human nature of it, I thought that it would be different. When I really looked at reality, if I’m a team, I can’t invest in a guy long-term because I’ve only done it for one year.
“Just from the facts of what my career has been, yeah, the first three years of my career I dealt with multiple injuries. But I feel like when you really look at the injuries I was dealing with, they were kind of fluke things. It’s once in a blue moon that something like that happens on the football field. I could understand if I’m pulling hamstrings, pulling quad muscles, things like that. Serious season-ending injuries, breaking bones, I think it’s fluke at the end of the day. Obviously now I got a chance to prove that I could stay healthy last year. Just looking forward that I can do that the rest of my career.”
The Giants are certainly hoping that Campbell’s 63 receptions in 16 starts for 623 yards (9.9 per catch) and 3 touchdowns are portent of things to come.
And on his part, for as nerve-wracking as Campbell’s free agency period was, he’s certainly happy that he landed in New York. He says that he was immediately welcomed into the locker room and it already feels like “family”.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my time here thus far. The culture was the first thing that stood out to me. It’s really a family atmosphere. From the guys in the locker room to the coaching staff to the front office, just everyone, you can kind of feel that family nature. I’ve just been trying to buy in since day one. But I’ve enjoyed myself. They’ve welcomed me like one of their own. It’s been a good time thus far.
“Shoot, since day one, it’s been nothing but good so far. I’ve been enjoying myself. I’ve been having fun out there on the football field with the guys, getting to know these guys. It’s a blessing. At first, I wasn’t so sure about leaving, but it’s definitely been a good opportunity for me.”
On the Giants’ offensive group
The Giants had the least explosive passing offense in NFL in 2022. Not only did they have the fewest explosive (20+ yard) passing plays, they averaged the fewest intended air yards in the league. The Giants’ front office made a concerted effort to add explosiveness to their offense, trading for TE Darren Waller (who Campbell calls an “athletic freak”), signing Campbell, and drafting WR Jalin Hyattt in the 2023 NFL draft.
“This is definitely probably the fastest total complete group that I’ve played with in my career. I mean, we’ve got speed all across the board. It’s speed that can do a lot of different things. It’s not just guys running in a straight line fast, it’s ball in the hands fast. In their routes fast. We complement each other. I’m excited for what’s to come.”
It isn’t that the Giants didn’t have any speed on their roster. They brought back Saquon Barkley and Darius Slayton as well. Of course, any time two (or more) fast and competitive people get together, the conversation will eventually turn to who is faster. Campbell turned a 4.31 second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, while Slayton “only” ran a 4.39 second 40.
Slayton previously declared himself the fastest player in the locker room, but Campbell wasn’t so sure.
“Slay says a lot of things. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re true. Deep down in his heart he knows,” Campbell said.