Thursday, August 26, 2010
Aaron Kampman (74) sacks Miami Dolphins QB Chad Henne during the preseason game on Aug. 21 2010. Kampman as proven himself to be an asset to the Jaguars both on and off of the field.
By CHARLIE BERNSTEIN
August 26, 2010
It was a surprise to many when the small-market Jaguars were active in the free agency market. It was an even greater surprise when the team managed to ink one of the most attractive defensive ends in free agency in Aaron Kampman.
“I always remember Jacksonville, and part of the reason I wanted to come to Jacksonville, was that it traditionally has been a team that plays great defense,” Kampman said when asked about his decision to sign with the Jaguars. “It is a defensive–minded head coach. I have never played for a coach like that. All of those things are factors.”
General manager Gene Smith was one of those factors that convinced Kampman to move his family to Jacksonville.
“We had different opportunities but we came down to Jacksonville, the first meeting was with General Manager Gene Smith and I was incredibly impressed with him, the way he articulated what had been done here,” Kampman said. “I had also done a little bit of homework, knowing about him and a good friend of mine who’s the head coach (Kirk Ferentz) at Iowa. He is good friends with Gene and so there was that right off the bat. Then more of my meetings with coach Del Rio and all the way down, things started to fall into place as far as a good place for me. So I called my agent and told him to go ahead and start working on the business side of things and we got it done.”
The Jaguars were amongst a host of teams that showed Kampman “free agency love” despite him losing the final month of last season to a torn ACL. Kampman believes that his surgery will make his knee stronger than ever.
“The reality is the particular surgery that I had, I used my own tendon and what that does is, some of the science of it, it actually ligamentizes those capillaries and that tendon actually becomes a ligament, it’s actually stronger,” a confident Aaron Kampman told reporters. “So I believe, in my mind, that I have a stronger knee than I did before. I think that’s a good thing.”
So what is the talented defensive ends goal following his surgery?
“I never had any expectations other than to be at a hundred percent. That’s what I’m shooting and fighting for and the judge as far as whether I’m a hundred percent or not, I’ll judge that at the end of the year.”
Aaron Kampman is the main piece in what the Jaguars hope is a resurrection of their defensive line. The team that finished last in the NFL in sacks in 2009 has only one place to go, and getting one of the best pass rushers in the league can only help that.
As far as a team goal for sacks, Kampman isn’t worried about actual numbers.
“Honestly I don’t think we’ve set a number as a group. One thing I’ve always done, I’ve always done numbers myself but I don’t really get too worried about it. You always focus on the next one,” the veteran defensive end said.
Kampman gave Jaguars fans a small taste on Saturday night of what he can bring as he and Tyson Alualu combined for a sack of Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne on the team’s very first defensive play.
“That was great to see,” Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of the play. “The first-team defense gets a three-and-out to start the game and that’s a good feeling to have him back.”
As much as the Jaguars need Kampman on the field playing as close to 100 percent as possible, he’s offering them an added dimension off the field as he’s mentoring the younger players. The Jaguars saw success with this last season as veteran wide receiver Torry Holt helped out many of the team’s young receivers.
“There’s always little tips, and tidbits that you can give to guys,” Kampman said. “For instance, Tyson (Alualu) and I had the opportunity in the short little window that I was in there to get him ‘hey let’s do this, hey look for this’. Those are things you just get with experience and are fun to help out.”
The younger players are taking to his leadership.
“I’m learning a lot from him and the game is starting to slowly slow down for me so it’s getting better and better,” Jaguars fifth-round pick Larry Hart said.
“Aaron (Kampman) said something to me one time that kind of stuck out to me,” Hart stated. “I mentioned that I was trying to be like him or be like someone else and he just said ‘be yourself’ so that’s kind of my goal. I may have some of the qualities they have but my ultimate goal is to be myself and play up to my abilities and everything else will fall in place.”
“Aaron Kampman (is someone) that we can look up to and pattern our game after his,” Jaguars first-round pick Tyson Alualu said.
With questionable talent and depth on the back end of their defense, the Jaguars are going to need an improved effort from their defensive line. Aaron Kampman is not only helping the team on the field, but in the film room as well and if things progress Kampman could become the best free agency signing in team history.