The football, at times, was downright ugly, with a third-string offense lined up against a third-team defense and a cavalcade of penalty flags prolonging a scrimmage that threatened to never end. But for Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Jason Campbell, the occasion was something to remember, if not celebrate, as he faced an opposing NFL defense for the first time and got a feel for what it's like to play professional football.
Campbell, the 25th overall pick in April's draft, capped his first week of training camp by leading the Redskins on a touchdown drive to complete Saturday's scrimmage with the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
The circumstances did not entirely reflect a game day -- offenses began drives at the 35-yard line and were essentially given 10 plays in which to score; quarterbacks were not allowed to be hit -- and much of the personnel surrounding Campbell likely will be waiver-wire fodder by the time final cuts are made. But Campbell managed to make the best of his situation and threw a nine-yard scoring pass to wide-open H-back Billy Baber on his final play of the afternoon.
Now, no matter how his career pans out, Campbell, 23, can tell his friends and family about the time he shared the field with future Hall of Famers such as linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Deion Sanders.
"I wasn't nervous," Campbell said. "I was just overexcited. It was my first time seeing guys like Deion and Ray, and the first time those guys are watching you, and you have the opportunity to play on the same field. I was just overexcited at first, and then I calmed down."
On his drive, Campbell, 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, completed 5 of 10 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, and he grew increasingly more at ease. His first pass sailed incomplete, and his third went right into the hands of Ravens cornerback Mark Estelle but was dropped. Redskins teammate Brock Forsey flubbed another attempt when Campbell was in shotgun formation. He later overthrew his receivers and left a ball up for grabs in the secondary, but safety Jarvis Johnson could not pull it in; had Baltimore's starters been in, Campbell may have thrown two interceptions.
A succession of plays were negated by penalties -- "I didn't know where all the flags were coming from," Campbell said -- but he shook that off, showed an ability to pinpoint passes to the sidelines and checked down to easier options when longer routes were covered.
"We'll kind of study the film," Coach Joe Gibbs said, "but I think he's got a lot of poise in there. I think he carries himself well. I think he's an accurate passer, but we're still getting to know him."
The Redskins surprised many in the NFL by dealing three picks -- including their 2006 first-round selection -- for an additional first-round selection in April. They took Campbell, who struggled for three seasons at Auburn and was projected to go undrafted when his senior season began. He then led the Tigers to a 13-0 season and earned a reputation as an unflappable competitor.
"I think this was a good step for him," said Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' vice president of football operations. "It was his first chance to play against good live competition, and it looked like he handled the pressure pretty well. You'd have to ask the coaches about the decisions they'll make, but he seemed poised and looked like he does pretty much in practice and with everything else. You're happy to see you got a guy who is pretty much what you expected."
A much tougher test awaits Saturday as the Redskins travel to Carolina to face the Panthers in their preseason opener. Campbell, the No. 3 quarterback, figures to play extensively, and this time defensive players will not be prohibited from providing a more realistic taste of what life can be like for an NFL quarterback.