washingtonpost.com
Redskins' Failed Pursuit Leads Back to Campbell
Team Tries to Reassure Quarterback After Its Attempt to Acquire Cutler

By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 3, 2009

Having failed to acquire disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos, the Washington Redskins yesterday moved to rebuild their relationship with quarterback Jason Campbell, whom the team had inquired about trading, NFL sources said.

Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder pushed to complete a trade with Denver in an attempt to finally solve the team's decades-long pursuit of a franchise quarterback, one league source said. But the Broncos instead accepted the Chicago Bears' offer of quarterback Kyle Orton, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick in exchange for Cutler and a fifth-round pick.

In addition to Washington's trade talks with Denver, a high-ranking Redskins official contacted another NFL team Wednesday about the possibility of trading Campbell, who has been the starter the past 2 1/2 seasons, for a second-round pick in the upcoming draft, another NFL source said. Speaking on behalf of Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, team spokesman Zack Bolno denied the team had inquired about trading Campbell and declined to comment on the Redskins' talks with Denver.

Concerned that Campbell could feel alienated, Redskins Coach Jim Zorn reached out to him yesterday, Campbell said. In a lengthy talk after Campbell worked out at Redskins Park, Zorn reaffirmed his commitment to Campbell and said they were "in it together," Campbell said.

Campbell, Zorn, Cerrato and Snyder are expected to meet soon in an attempt to continue the healing process, sources close to Campbell said, with the team at some point planning to issue a statement of confidence in its former first-round draft pick, possibly as early as today. Snyder and Cerrato did not attempt to speak with Campbell yesterday while he was at the complex, Campbell said.

"Jim was honest with me about the whole process and everything that went on, and you appreciate it when people tell you the truth," Campbell said. "I know Jim has been behind me and believes in me, and I have the support of my coaches and my teammates, and that's pretty much all you need.

"To have Jim tell me he knows I can help this team get to where we want to be and that he has that confidence, that trust, in me, that's what you want to hear as a young quarterback in this league after having all this crazy stuff going on around you. Knowing you can trust your coach really helps right now."

The Redskins were unable to complete a deal for Cutler, in part, because the Broncos viewed Orton as a better short-term fit than Campbell for the system Denver's new head coach, Josh McDaniels, plans to implement, a league source said.

Campbell acknowledged he was initially stung last month when he heard his name mentioned in trade speculation involving Cutler and the Broncos. His concerns were allayed when Cerrato said March 17 that the team was not pursuing Cutler and Zorn dismissed the notion while meeting with reporters during the NFL owners' meetings last week in Dana Point, Calif.

When word emerged yesterday, however, that the Redskins were actively pursuing a trade for Cutler, Campbell braced himself to possibly leave the organization that drafted him and helped him develop in four NFL seasons "because there was a lot more out there this time. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on, stuff you're hearing from people you trust, so you know something's happening.

"But you also know that there's nothing you can do about it. You just keep working and doing the things you need to do to get ready for the season. I just kept preparing myself for the season because whether I was here or whether I was someplace else, I still have a responsibility to my coaches and teammates. Those are the people that matter to me, so at the end of the day, I never want to let them down."

Campbell was among the main targets of frustrated fans, who questioned his intelligence and leadership skills on Internet message boards and sports-talk radio, during the team's 2-6 collapse after a 6-2 start last season. The offensive line struggled in pass protection, and the receiving corps did not produce as Snyder and Cerrato hoped.

After the Redskins failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, Cerrato declined to commit to Campbell as the team's quarterback beyond the 2009 season. But Zorn continued to publicly support Campbell, who in his second full season as a starter last season established personal bests with an 84.3 passer rating, 3,245 yards and 13 touchdown passes while throwing only six interceptions.

"We're all going to be in Coach Zorn's offense for our second year and that's going to help everybody," Campbell said. "With all this stuff going on, I just kept thinking about the things we can do as an offense, the things we can do as a team, and that's what I stayed focused on. I'm never going to let what other people do stop me from trying to be the best I can be for my coaches and my teammates."

While Campbell conducted himself professionally as the Redskins shopped him, and took the high road again yesterday, he is a proud person and his calm demeanor should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness, a source close to Campbell said.

"In a lot of ways, you have a lot of feelings about this, but there's also a lot of stuff you just keep on the inside," Campbell said. "You just go out there with a little bit more passion, a little bit more of a chip on your shoulder. Out of all of this, something good has got to come out of it.

"Maybe it's just that you stay positive, you keep working hard for the people that matter to you and you keep trying to be the best you can be. I really believe that everything I've gone through only prepares me to be a stronger person and a stronger quarterback. But this also shows you a lot. It shows you your true value to some people."

Redskins Notes: A league source with knowledge of the situation confirmed a Nashville Tennessean report indicating that the Titans have asked the NFL to investigate possible tampering charges in the Redskins' pursuit of free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

The Titans have not filed a formal grievance against the Redskins, according to sources, but did turn over what the team believed to be evidence that Washington officials had contact with Haynesworth and/or his agent before the official start of free agency in February, which would be a violation of league rules.

The Redskins have declined to comment on the matter, while Titans officials are saying only that the issue is "a league matter," at this point. Several representatives from the NFL were contacted last week about whether an investigation was underway and all declined comment, citing NFL policy. NFL representatives also reiterated the league's practice of making no remarks on tampering cases until and unless a punishment has been handed down.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company