Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Redskins' Jason Campbell continues to show grit

"Physically it's the most I've been hit during a year," says Jason Campbell, taking one for the team vs. Dallas. (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Tracee Hamilton
washington post staff writer
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The band was playing "Auld Lang Syne" as Jason Campbell walked off the FedEx Field on Sunday night, possibly -- even probably -- for the final time as a Redskin. The melody was appropriate. Campbell will become a restricted free agent at the season's merciful end and may be among old acquaintances that may be forgot and never brought to mind.

Most of the fans -- those in burgundy and gold, anyway -- had long since swirled through the stadium exits like bathwater through a drain. The Redskins had just been shut out at home for the first time since 2003, had just gone winless in the NFC East for the first time since 1994, and had just dropped to 4-11, with a long flight to San Diego to face the playoff-bound Chargers on the horizon.

So few were left to serenade Campbell after a particularly brutal night -- 24-for-39 passing, 199 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 63.9 rating. He was sacked three times, including a hammering hit by Orlando Scandrick that left him writhing.

In the postgame news conference -- at which he sported what used to be called a mouse in the auld days -- Campbell was his usual stoic self. But in a later one-on-one, Comcast's Kelli Johnson asked if he was worried about his own health, and for a moment the mask slipped.

"I'm very worried about the situation I've been put in," Campbell said. "I've been hit so much, it's not even fair. I just call it like it is." Here he paused, and then the old Campbell returned. "I'm just gonna leave it alone."

Those three sentences are the closest Campbell has come to whining about the pummeling he's taken this season. For Coach Jim Zorn -- a former NFL quarterback who was twice sacked 44 times in a single season -- that might have been three sentences too many.

"No player in the NFL is guaranteed the comfort and cush of anything," Zorn said Monday. "It's a hard game. . . . Is he getting hit more than other QBs? A lot of them. I think he's a tough human being. It's part of the nature of the game. He's got to move in the pocket and throw the ball."

True enough. But Campbell has spent so much time on the ground this season, gazing up, that he could have a minor in astronomy. He has been sacked 41 times, but there were countless other occasions he was knocked on his keester after releasing the ball. The beating he took last week against the Giants was almost sickening to watch. Few thought he'd come out to start the second half, but as often happens, we underestimated Jason Campbell.

More amazing than his grit is that he so rarely complains about the hammering he's taking. And he certainly never points fingers at the dilapidated line, the inexperienced tight end, or the parade of running backs.

"That's the thing that I and a lot of teammates really love about Jason," center Casey Rabach said. "He's been through so much in the past year, the offseason and then obviously just getting whooped during the season. The guy never quits, he never says anything, he's a tremendous guy to play for, to play with. He's an inspiring individual and that's the kind of guy you want running your team."

Campbell was true to form in Sunday's news conference. He was asked about what was causing the breakdowns on the offensive line. He started with an admission that there are problems -- "Sometimes it's just communication, making sure we're on the right guy." But then he was back in Jason Mode, defending his battered front line.

"It's not always the offensive line either," he said. "Our backs also have to communicate with our offensive line. It gets loud sometimes and there are guys who haven't been in there a whole lot or have a lot of experience with the guys up front. One miscommunication can throw off the whole protection. Everyone's involved in protection. We all just got to do what we do and fight through it. The year that we had on the offense, we've gone through so many different people, it's hard to have that continuity and that communication a lot of offenses that score a lot of points have."

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