By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Starting quarterback Jason Campbell could miss the rest of the season with a dislocated left kneecap after suffering a hit in Thursday's win over Chicago, but Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said the team is not prepared to put a timetable on his recovery.
Campbell, in his first full season as a starter, underwent an MRI exam yesterday that reinforced the initial diagnosis that he did not endure ligament damage and will not require surgery, but Gibbs said doctors will review the results before deciding a course of treatment.
Campbell was told that he likely would be out four weeks, according to sources close to the player, and the Redskins (6-7) have just three regular season contests remaining. Gibbs said that veteran quarterback Todd Collins would start the next game, on Dec. 16 at the New York Giants.
"It's going to be a matter of [Campbell] healing up," Gibbs said. "I don't think we've got to the point where we can say how long."
This was Campbell's second serious brush with an injury to his left knee -- the first was during the exhibition season -- and in this case the recovery is measured in weeks and not months.
"He's got a burning desire to get back in there," Gibbs said. Though the injury was clearly painful -- Campbell could be seen screaming on the field -- the dislocation was not as severe as some feared. A dislocated kneecap can recur, but the overall prognosis was seen as overwhelmingly positive by the coaches and medical staff.
"It could be a lot worse," Campbell said. "I'm in a position right now where I don't have to worry about any kind of surgery or anything, and that's a plus. But you put a lot of hours and a lot of time into the offseason to put yourself in a situation like this -- to help lead your team to the playoffs -- and not to be in there down the home stretch, it's a tough feeling. But one thing I can't do is get my head down and get down on myself."
Campbell was on crutches and wearing a knee brace yesterday, and said that after his knee popped out it took two attempts while on the field to get it back in place.
"You're laying on the ground and you don't want to look at it and your kneecap is sitting on the side of your knee," said Campbell, who will stay off his feet as much as possible to reduce swelling. "We'll see how things improve over the next couple of weeks."
Campbell, making just his 20th career start Thursday night, has drawn continual praise from coaches and teammates about his development on and off the field. Campbell has completed 60 percent of his passes -- greatly improved over his 53 percent accuracy in 2006 -- for 2,700 yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 77.6 rating (almost identical to his 2006 rating).
With Campbell out, Collins had the best outing of his career, leading the Redskins to a 24-16 win. That victory keeps their playoff hopes alive, with playoff favorites New York Giants, Minnesota and Dallas on the schedule. Next Sunday will be Collins's first NFL start since Dec. 14, 1997, though Gibbs and associate head coach Al Saunders have faith in his abilities to execute this offense after spending the bulk of his career as a backup for Saunders in Kansas City and Washington.
"I think he made a statement there in the second half," Gibbs said. "I don't know anybody can play any better than that coming off the bench. We've got a lot of confidence in Todd."
The Redskins, whose play-calling and conservative philosophy while leading late in games has correlated directly with their propensity for blown halftime leads, were more aggressive Thursday with Collins in the game. Rather than relying on a moribund running game as they had in the past several games, Saunders stuck with the passing attack in the final minutes and the Redskins ended up taking a commanding 11-point lead late to put the game away with tailback Ladell Betts making a 16-yard touchdown reception.
Several players commented that the offensive approach was drastically different than past weeks. Saunders, the offensive play-caller, has been Collins's biggest proponent for years despite his lack of substantial playing time. On the final two drives Thursday, clinging to a 14-10 lead, the Redskins threw the ball 12 times and ran it just seven; a week ago they ran 15 times in the second half and threw it just 14 times and blew a lead against Buffalo.
"I've been with Todd for a long time," Saunders said. "And it's like anything else: When you have a lot confidence and know what they can do, you have a tendency to do things a little differently."
Collins was 15 for 20 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 144.6 rating, albeit against a weak Chicago defense, but now must prove he can perform consistently. He lacks Campbell's mobility and is playing behind a sagging offensive line -- the Giants are an elite pass-rushing team -- but his mastery of Saunders's offense was obvious Thursday, and he is comfortable reading a defense and finding open receivers. Teammates say Collins is highly effective in practice and they trust his ability to perform.
"As a receiver we expect Todd to go out there and do what he do, because we see it every day," wide receiver Santana Moss said. "In practice I just watch how fluent he is when he runs the offense. Me, personally, when he came over here, I said he runs the offense the way they ran it in Kansas City."