JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Aaron Kampman has played nearly every snap of every game during his nine years in the NFL. Third downs, goal-line situations, close games, even blowouts, Kampman has been on the field way more often than he's been on the sideline.
It's one of the reasons the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Kampman to a four-year, $26 million contract last year.
Now, after ending the last two seasons on injured reserve, his role is changing.
Kampman will be a part-time player for the Jaguars in 2011. Coach Jack Del Rio said Saturday the former Pro Bowl defensive end will play about 45 snaps a game, way less than the 70 or so he has averaged throughout his career.
"The idea of having him roll through there for 70, 75 snaps game-in and game-out, I'm not sure how much he'd have left at the end of the year if we approached it that way," Del Rio said.
Kampman seems OK with the decision, at least publicly.
"I've tried all offseason to get my mind around that," Kampman said, adding that he's not sure how firm the 45-play limit will be. "I do think it's obviously wise that we do what's best for the team. I've always played high 90s as far as percentage of the game, but if it makes more sense and I'm more effective and the rest of the D-line is more effective, then we're going to do that."
Kampman missed the final seven games in 2009 with Green Bay after tearing a ligament in his left knee. He signed with Jacksonville the following year and pushed to be ready for training camp and the season opener. He did, but he missed the final eight games of the season after tearing a ligament in his right knee.
The Jaguars beefed up the defensive line by signing Matt Roth on Friday. Roth has 20 sacks in seven seasons, the first five in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. They also expect more from second-year players Tyson Alualu, Austen Lane and D'Anthony Smith as well as third-year starter Terrance Knighton.
"The arrow is pointing upward," Del Rio said. "Anytime you can increase your talent base and guys are working their way back into a healthy position it helps strengthen you and so I feel like we've fortified ourselves recently."
Keeping Kampman healthy might do even more for a defensive line that recorded 26 sacks last season. Taking him off the field for some plays some could be the best way to make it happen.
"It's more probably a pride issue for myself because I've always loved to be on the field," Kampman said. "I've always loved to just be a guy that never comes off, but I think the reality is if it helps our team, if I'm fresher and able to mount a better rush in crucial situations then absolutely I think it's a wise move."
Kampman has been more cautious with his recovery this time around. He was held out of 11-on-11 situations and full-contact drills during the first two weeks of training camp and didn't even make the trip to New England for Thursday's preseason opener. Del Rio said he will start getting Kampman involved in team drills Saturday night, but said he won't play in next week's exhibition against Atlanta.
Kampman welcomed the extra rest, but said "it's always good to get your feet wet" before the regular season.
One thing that would bother him is being on the sideline in crunch time, something he's never done at any level of football.
"That would be a tough one to swallow," he said. "Again, whatever is going to be best for our team. The reality is that you've got to earn a spot on this team to be able to be one of those four guys that's going to rush on third down or in definite passing situations, so there are no free tickets for that one, myself included. Our best guys have to be out there when we need to get after the quarterback in passing situations."