By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Jason Campbell provided buzz, shrugging off New York Giants defenders on a 12-yard run in the first quarter and sprinting past them on 15-yard run in the third. The Redskins' young quarterback provided scares, taking a brutal hit from Brandon Short that caused him to black out and briefly sent him to the sideline just before halftime. Campbell provided hope, too, leading the Redskins on two efficient late-game scoring drives during which he was nearly perfect.
But as fans filed out of FedEx Field, "Auld Lang Syne" played over the loudspeakers, and the Redskins ambled off the field for the final time in 2006, it was Giants quarterback Eli Manning who trotted over to offer Campbell the sympathetic pat on the rear and whispered words of encouragement. Because for yet another week, Campbell's play had provided plenty of excitement and plenty of memorable moments, but not a victory.
It was not for lack of opportunity in a 34-28 loss that ran his record as a starter to 2-5. On Campbell's first two chances in the fourth quarter, he produced two touchdown drives, completing 9 of 10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. His only incompletion came on a meaningless toss out of bounds.
"I got into that zone," he said. "I had the mentality where I was in a zone, and no matter what defense they were throwing at me, that I'd be able to compete and complete passes."
He got the ball back for a third time, with more than two minutes on the clock and the Redskins within six points. One pass was underthrown to Ladell Betts. The next was behind David Patten. The next soared past Patten. The final pass, intended for Antwaan Randle El, was broken up.
"We were so close," Campbell said.
With the Redskins dissecting their lost season after their last missed opportunity, they paused to compliment Campbell's play. He proved elusive, rushing for 30 yards on three carries. It was the second-best rushing day for a Redskins quarterback this season.
"Did you see him run the ball?" said running back Rock Cartwright. "Did you see him break tackles? I mean, that was great."
And Campbell proved resilient. After Short's hit caused his head to bounce off the turf in the second quarter, Campbell headed to the sideline and missed two offensive plays. He said he blacked out for about five seconds, but he wanted back in the game immediately. He went back in the third quarter.
"My head was just being dizzy for a minute; I think it was just from hitting the ground so hard," Campbell said.
"I think that what Jason did for me was make a statement," said Coach Joe Gibbs, who added Campbell would remain the starter in 2007. "He got tagged. He said that he was ready to go back in the next series."
"He got [hit hard] and came back in there; that shows toughness," guard Randy Thomas agreed. "He could have just sat on the sidelines. The season's over, so he could have just sat there and just waited till next year, but there's a fight in him, you know? He's got to learn how to slide, though."
Which Campbell would agree is not the only thing he needs to learn. The quarterback said he would "take a little break" and then begin readying for next year, both in the weight room and with his receivers. He said he would get together with them, whether he has to fly to meet them or bring them to the Washington area. He guessed he would spend 75 percent of his offseason at Redskins Park and the other 25 percent elsewhere. He said "for the most part, I grew in a lot of ways" this season, and he promised next year he would "take it to another level."
"There's a lot to build from, a lot I can take home and learn from," he said. "All the games we lost were one or two or five points. Next year we need to be on the opposite end of that."