EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Parris Campbell's first three NFL seasons were a trial of pain and frustration. After finally becoming a fulltime player in 2022, he's ready to reach greater heights as a new member of the Giants' wide receiver corps.
"When I got close to a deal with the Giants, the excitement through me, my family, we were just excited for this next step of our journey," Campbell said today. "I think we're incredibly grateful to be here."
Campbell's first four pro seasons were spent in Indianapolis, where he engaged with the Colts' medical staff far more often than he wanted. A second-round draft choice in 2019, his rookie season was limited to seven games because of abdominal injury, fractured hand, broken foot and three surgeries.
His second season? Don't ask. He sprained his medical collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments and played only two games.
In 2021, his potential and bad luck collided on one play against Houston on Oct. 17 as he scored a touchdown on a 51-yard reception while a defensive back landed on and fractured his foot. Campbell did not return to the field until the season finale on Jan. 9.
After three years with the Colts, he had played in only 15 games and caught 34 passes for 360 yards and two scores. Campbell enjoyed his first healthy and productive season in 2022, when he played in all 17 games with 16 starts and caught 63 passes for 623 yards and three touchdowns.
Campbell had three catches for a team-high 52 yards, including a 49-yarder, when the Colts lost to the Giants in MetLife Stadium on Jan. 1. He had a career-high 10 catches (for 70 yards) at Tennessee on Oct. 23, and a career-best 76 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown, on seven catches at Las Vegas on Nov. 13.
"My career is what it was," Campbell said. "It was tough, very tough those first three years. But being able to bounce back from each and every injury that I had, I really learned a lot about myself. I feel like I grew as a man, as a person, a player, obviously. It allowed me to grow in so many different ways because I've seen a lot of myself that I didn't know that I had. I was just able to fight and just bounce back so many different times. It just showed me a lot.
"Speaking in terms of last year, being able to play a full 17 (games), that's all I ever wanted to do. Just given the history of my career, that's all I ever wanted to do. So, being able to do that, I was blessed, grateful. The injuries that I had, it was things that were just freak accidents. You couldn't really draw it up. They weren't avoidable to me. They were things that happened and just had some bad luck. Like I said, was able to play all 17 last year, so I was extremely blessed."
Which is his reaction to joining the Giants. Campbell was one of three veteran free agents to formally signed with the team today. The others are fellow wideout Jeff Smith, who spent his first four seasons with the Jets, and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, who played the last five seasons in Tampa Bay after beginning his career with a three-year stint in Kansas City.
They join the other new Giants: tight end Darren Waller, obtained in a trade with Las Vegas, and linebacker Bobby Okereke, a four-year teammate of Campbell with the Colts.
View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Campbell has already connected with Waller and quarterback Daniel Jones, who recently signed a four-year contract. He is excited to join an offense that also includes Saquon Barkley and receivers Isaiah Hodgins and Sterling Shepard, who re-signed this week.
"I think the ceiling is high, and I'm grateful to be in the position that I am," said Campbell, who attended St. Mary-St. Vincent High School in Akron, the alma mater of LeBron James. "To have this opportunity is everything to me. This team, this organization is trending in the right direction. I think we all saw that last year. So, being able to come in here and get an opportunity means everything. The fact that the staff, the coaches, from everybody top to bottom, wants me to be a part of it, it's huge. And I'm not going to take that for granted. I'm going to give them all I got.
"But definitely envisioning success with those guys, it's amazing because you see what this offense did last year and just the way they made football look so fun and just how the offense was coming together and gelling, it was awesome to watch from afar. So, to be here now, getting the opportunity to be a part of that, it's pretty exciting."
So is the opportunity to play with Jones, who not only is coming off his finest season, but is entrenched as the Giants' quarterback. In Campbell's four seasons in Indianapolis, the Colts started seven different QBs, including three last year.
"It's definitely tough as a receiver, going through so many different changes with so many quarterbacks," Campbell said. "And then especially last year, playing with three quarterbacks in one season, it's definitely tough because you want to build a rapport with a guy and keep it consistent throughout the season and build that chemistry. With so much change, it's hard to do that. And as a receiver, it's like you've got to change what you want to do like running route and you've got to be on the same page as the different quarterbacks. Some guys like other things, certain routes. It's a lot of different change, and it's hard to get it consistent and get on the same page with so many guys.
"But the guys that we had, credit to them, because they're super detailed from top to bottom – each and every one of them – super detailed. It's easy to get on the same page and get along with those guys. But I'm excited, being here now in New York, getting to build a rapport with Daniel Jones. So, I'm excited for what's to come."
Nunez-Roches is the most experienced of the new Giants. A 6-2, 307-pounder, he will turn 30 in July and is entering his ninth NFL season. Nunez-Roches has played in 102 regular-season games with 38 starts and eight postseason games with four starts. He started at nose tackle and played 13 snaps on defense and nine on special teams in the Buccaneers' 31-9 victory against Kansas City in Super Bowl LV.
His career regular-season totals include 132 tackles (69 solo), 14 stops for loss, 3.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In the playoffs, he has 10 stops (two solo), including two for loss.
Nunez-Roches has a gregarious personality and prefers to be called "Nacho."
"I'm just bringing a whole lot of energy, a whole lot of excitement, a whole lot of teamwork, just hard work and effort," he said. "My personality is my personality. Everything I do, I work hard for. It's just understanding how much this game means to me and how much it gives back to me. I just try to give it all I got, and I don't know how to really wear my emotions or my feelings. But it just comes out on my sleeve and the way I talk, it's just me."
Nunez-Roches will step into a defensive line that includes second-team all-pro Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams.
"I respect their game," Nunez-Roches said. "Those are some dogs right there. I just feel like coming here to help and contribute, bringing some great things. Stopping the run is what I do. I do that in my sleep. I just want to help those guys in that aspect. Anything I can do to help them, take the load off them, that's what I'm here for."
Smith, 6-1 and 195 pounds, played in 36 games – 35 in the last three seasons – with seven starts for the Jets. He had 34 receptions for 426 yards, with a long catch of 50 yards. Smith caught eight passes in each of the last two seasons after finishing with career-high totals of 17 receptions and 167 yards in 2020. He is also a standout special teams player.
Smith joined the Jets as a rookie free agent from Boston College in 2019. He spent the first 14 weeks of that season on the practice squad, caught a 12-yard pass in his only game (Dec. 12 at Baltimore), and finished the season on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain.
In 2020, Smith made his starting debut in his first appearance of the season and tallied career-high totals of seven catches for 81 yards. He started four games that season and three in 2021.
Smith played quarterback when he began his career at Boston College before transitioning to wide receiver before his 2016 sophomore season. In three years as a wideout, he caught 72 passes for 1,078 yards and nine touchdowns.
View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 offseason.