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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No Limit To Effort For Kampman



By Mike Spofford

November 1, 2007

Aaron Kampman's most recent sack describes the All-Pro defensive end, and newly anointed NFC Defensive Player of the Month, to a T.

In the fourth quarter of Monday night's game in Denver, the Broncos handed the ball on an end-around to receiver Brandon Marshall, who was looking to throw as he approached the right sideline.

Kampman had a chance to get him about 10 to 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but the shifty Marshall (far more mobile than most actual quarterbacks) made him miss. Kampman got up and took another dive at him, but Marshall eluded him again.

Then, with nowhere to throw the ball, Marshall took off for the middle of the field to try to gain some yardage running, and Kampman, motor still going, ran him down from behind and tackled him for a 3-yard loss.

Kampman said he's never had to work so hard for one sack in his life. "That probably takes the cake," he said. But the thing about Kampman is he'd work that hard for every sack if that's what it took.

"He's extremely consistent in everything he does, as far as his productivity on the field and as far as the way he attacks his profession," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "He works at his fundamentals all the time, and he really doesn't have a weakness in his game."

The sack of Marshall was Kampman's third of the night, fifth in his last two games, and eighth on the season, all while seeing more tight ends staying in to help block him or running backs chip him coming out of the backfield after he posted 15 1/2 sacks and earned his first Pro Bowl bid last year.

Kampman battled some nagging rib and side injuries that kept him from performing his best in the first few games this season. But in Denver, the fourth three-sack game of his career came on the heels of an absolutely dominant performance before the bye week against the Redskins, helping to win the NFC's monthly award.

In that game Washington's backup right tackle, Stephon Heyer, was no match for Kampman, who repeatedly pushed Heyer into the backfield to collapse the pocket. Kampman also tied a career-high with 11 tackles and took over on the last two defensive series of the game, recording a tackle for loss, two sacks, and a fourth-down tackle 6 yards short of a first down to preserve a 17-14 victory.

Kampman couldn't say if that was the best game of his career - "I've never really been able to point to one and say, 'Wow, that was it,'" he said - but it has to rank right up there. His two other 11-tackle performances, in 2006 vs. New England and in 2004 vs. the New York Giants, both came in defeats, and his three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in a dynamite outing against New Orleans last year also came in a loss, which is probably why he doesn't concern himself with remembering them.

But that's Kampman. He's not motivated by statistics, personal glory, or even the opposing competition necessarily. This week he'll be taking the same field as Kansas City's Jared Allen, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Month. Both defensive ends have eight sacks this season, tied for second in the NFL, one behind Philadelphia's Trent Cole.

Trying to outdo, or out-sack, Allen on Sunday would be a phony motivating factor to Kampman.

"Those are external things that can mess with your head, so why think about them?" he said. "You stay internal, you do what you do, you worry about yourself, and then at the end if you want to look at stats, you look at stats. I think those things are more traps than actual real solid things that can be motivation."

What motivates Kampman is trying to maximize on his God-given abilities, which everyone around the league is discovering are far greater than first thought, when he was a fifth-round draft choice in 2002 out of Iowa, the 14th defensive end taken that year.

"He's got a blue-collar approach in the weight room," McCarthy said. "He takes great care of his body. He's definitely one of the players that will think or look outside the box for different training techniques to improve himself."

Those different techniques generally involve a medicine ball, twisting and rotating his body in difficult and sometimes awkward stances and having to channel enough strength to thrust the heavy ball away from his body.

It's how Kampman has packed as much leverage and torque into his 270-pound frame as he possibly can, refining technique and adding explosion while simulating the movements to beat a blocker.

"Usually when we think of training we think of weight room stuff and free weights, and that's all very important and foundational," Kampman said. "But to take it to the next step, there aren't a lot of times (on the field) I'm going to be lying on my back bench-pressing. That's still a good exercise, but having said that, if I can do something to simulate how I'm going to actually be contorted and twisted while I'm pass rushing, or while I'm engaged with an offensive linemen, that really helps."

Kampman has improved his sack total every year he's been in the league, beginning with one-half sack as a rookie in 2002 to the 15 1/2 last year. With eight sacks through seven games in 2007, Kampman is on pace to set yet another career-high.

But it's not as though he's worried about that. Going back to the third sack in the Denver game, Kampman didn't even realize at the time the play on Marshall was a sack. He thought he just finally managed to make the tackle.

And it's probably his lack of concern for the statistics that helps him pile them up so quickly and consistently.

"From the motivation standpoint, all I've got to worry about is doing my best," he said. "When you really grab hold of that, the numbers and all that stuff don't become the focus. They become a by-product rather than the focus.

"As long as I can look myself in the mirror and know that I've done everything I possibly can do, then I feel fine. And I know that's all I'm asked to do."

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