Campbell Assured It's His Team

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 4, 2008

Jason Campbell threw lightly yesterday for the second time this week, but said he is unsure when he will be able to return to practice with his injured knee still ailing. When he is healthy, however, Campbell said that associate head coach-offense Al Saunders assured him that he will remain the Redskins' starting quarterback.

"Coach Saunders talks to me all the time and says, 'This is your team, this is your offense, all the things going on now are the same things you would have been doing,' " Campbell said. " 'It was building up to this and now all the guys are healthy and everyone is playing at a different level.'

"He said, 'You're the biggest part of it, so don't feel like you're not part of it or not part of anything, you're a big reason why we're in the playoffs and you went through all the tough times, and things happen sometimes.' "

Campbell, a first-round pick in 2005, dislocated his left kneecap Dec. 6 and swelling has lingered. While he is making progress it could be another few weeks before he could appear in a game. The Redskins are thriving under backup Todd Collins, who will start tomorrow's playoff game in Seattle.

Campbell said his throwing routine is limited to light drop-backs without moving quickly or planting his feet normally. He is trying to remain on top of the passing routes and playbook, and hopes that should the Redskins reach the NFC championship game or Super Bowl that he might be able to play.

"We're still seeing how it feels every day, and some days it's better than others," Campbell said. "I'm happy with the progress right now, because it just happened four weeks ago and they said it's a four-to-six-week-type injury. It's good just moving around and throwing the ball to the receivers, but it would be hard to just jump back in and start doing things full speed."

Bubba Tyer, Washington's director of sports medicine, said that Campbell is making good strides -- walking with a natural gait, moving well and his quadriceps is now firing normally -- but that he is not fully recovered. At times, Campbell said, he has been depressed, but he said he is genuinely happy for Collins -- "He's studied his butt off and he deserves a chance" -- and his teammates.

Collins said: "This is Jason's team and then through circumstances out of his control he can't play. It must be awful, and I hope he gets healthy so he can make a contribution, too."

Other players said they emphasize this with Campbell as well and have tried to keep his spirits high.

"I'm sure it's frustrating for Jason, but this is Jason's team," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "Todd's just renting. This is Jason's team and he's got a bright future and every guy in here to a man knows that if he didn't hurt his knee we'd still be going to Seattle."

Despite the long trip to Seattle, Campbell said he will be traveling on the charter flight to the game. Campbell said he and Coach Joe Gibbs believe making the trip is best for the young quarterback and the team. The knee "might swell up a little bit on the flight," Campbell said, "but I think it's important that I'm there for my teammates."

"Right now his job is to prepare like he's the starter for every game," Saunders said. "He doesn't have the experience of playing, but it is the preparation of getting ready to play a playoff game, so it's another step in his development."

Campbell said he has learned watching Collins throw to running backs when wide receivers are not open downfield, a part of the game he is working on. But overall, Campbell said, "I feel like I could be doing the same job."

Comparisons to Collins, who has been with Saunders for the bulk of his career and mastered his offensive system, are inevitable.

"People try to compare him to me, but that's not really fair," Campbell said. "He's been in this offense for eight or nine years and he's a 13-year vet. I'm still brand new in the league, almost. I've just had 20 starts and I'm still learning as I go and still experiencing things. So Todd's a good guy to have on the team and a good guy to be around and you learn so much from him just being around him."

Redskins Notes: Wide receiver James Thrash (ankle) and Campbell were the only players who did not practice yesterday. Thrash's status will be updated today. . . . Sean Taylor's father, Pedro, will be a guest on "Redskins Kickoff" on Comcast SportsNet at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

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