WESTFIELD, Ind. – It's not a coincidence that Parris Campbell and Matt Ryan have shown a strong connection during the early days of Colts training camp at Grand Park.
The wide receiver and quarterback spent plenty of time together away from the Colts' facility this offseason – Campbell estimated he caught passes from Ryan four or five times before OTAs, and then another three times between veteran minicamp and the start of training camp earlier this week.
In Thursday's practice, Ryan hit Campbell in stride over the middle of the field, giving the speedy wideout opportunities to pick up yards after the catch. Again: That's not a coincidence.
"When I'm lined up in the slot running those crossers, that's Matt's bread and butter," Campbell said.
He later added: "I think that's my bread and butter, too."
Over his three years in the NFL, Campbell has been targeted 19 times between the numbers on short or intermediate throws, according to Pro Football Focus (Campbell has 53 career targets). He's caught 17 of those passes for 149 yards, good for a passer rating when targeted of 99.3; eight of those receptions went for first downs.
And in the 2020 season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars – Campbell's most productive game of his career – five of his six catches were over the middle, generating 54 yards (10.8 yards/reception) on those plays.
"That's something I've done just throughout my college career and coming here, you guys see me do that stuff," Campbell said. "So whenever I'm in the slot I'm the most comfortable for sure."
On one of Campbell's middle-of-the-field catches during Thursday's practice, he initially felt like he got into Ryan's throwing window too fast, so he downshifted on his route a bit. The pass was still completed, but after the play, Ryan went to Campbell and told him: "Trust me, just run."
"Little things like that go a long way in building our rapport and building our connection and building that trust," Campbell said.
Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said the early returns on Campbell have been noticeably positive.
"This is his year for him to show out. We're ready for that," Brady said. "He's been looking great — he had a great offseason, he's had a great few days here. I thought he made some nice catches, run some great routes, you can feel his speed out on the field."
The question for Campbell has never been talent, of course. The 2019 second-round pick out of Ohio State – who had a healthy, explosive college career – has dealt with a litany of bad-luck injuries over his three years in the NFL. Campbell missed 9 games in 2019, then 14 games in 2020, then 11 games in 2021 due to various injuries and ailments; cruelly, he went on injured reserve last year after breaking a bone in his foot catching a long touchdown against the Houston Texans in Week 6.
But Campbell on Friday said he felt blessed to be in the situation he's in entering his fourth year in the league.
"It's been tough, but I think it's set my mindset up for now.," Campbell said. "The position I'm in, I feel so blessed because not everybody gets an opportunity like this. And my career thus far hasn't been what I've wanted it to be, but it's definitely set my mindset up.
"Every time I take that field, I never take it for granted because I know how fast it can be taken away because I've experienced that."
Check out photos from the Colts second day of training camp at Grand Park.