- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ladell Betts found out cruising the Internet. Chris Cooley found out watching television. And Jon Jansen found out from a former Washington Redskins quarterback, Patrick Ramsey.

The news that Jason Campbell had been named the Redskins’ new starting quarterback spread fast Monday night, and by the time Campbell arrived home he had received text messages from veteran quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair and Cleveland Browns second-year starter Charlie Frye.

Soon after, Campbell, promoted from third string to first team by coach Joe Gibbs, turned his phone off.

“Coach Gibbs told me that my whole life is going to change, and it feels different,” Campbell said yesterday afternoon at Redskin Park. “It was like winning the lottery. I got the exciting feeling, but then I thought, ‘Is this really true?’ I had to go home and relax for a few minutes. But today I’m back to my normal self.”

Campbell will make his NFL debut for the Redskins (3-6) on Sunday against the Buccaneers (2-7) in Tampa, Fla.

Gibbs made the change in an effort to spark a Redskins offense that ranks 20th in the league in points a game and failed to score an offensive touchdown in three games this season.

Players said yesterday the switch to Campbell made sense considering a playoff run is unlikely.

“Things can’t get any worse than they already are,” said cornerback Carlos Rogers, Campbell’s teammate at Auburn.

Right guard Randy Thomas said: “I was caught off guard by it, but it’s a positive move because we know his potential, and it’s going to be exciting to see him play. I respect the move. When it came out I thought, what better timing than being 3-6, needing a win and needing some energy to spark a group of guys.”

None of the players said Brunell was the lone reason for the team’s offensive struggles. But they also realized the team has invested heavily in Campbell and needs to know whether he’s ready to play.

“Sooner or later, he was going to get his chance and it was going to be his time,” receiver Santana Moss said. “Practice is nothing. Until you get out in the game, that’s the only way you’ll get experience. Whatever he’s done in practice is a plus because he’s getting mental reps, but until you get into the fire and go through stuff it’s not the same thing.”

Brunell was benched in 2004 during the ninth game, a loss that dropped the Redskins to 3-6. Ramsey went 3-4 the rest of the season. Brunell returned to the job when Ramsey was injured in the opener last season and helped the Redskins to a 10-6 record and a playoff win over the Buccaneers.

Ramsey was traded to the New York Jets in the offseason, leaving Brunell firmly in place as the starter, Todd Collins as the No. 2 and Campbell the third-stringer.

But Brunell looked every bit of his 36 years this fall, only once throwing for more than 261 yards in a game.

“It falls on everybody,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “There were opportunities where Mark would have completed a deep pass if we had given him better protection. The quarterback takes too much of the blame when we’re losing, and I feel sorry for Mark because of that. All of the factors need to be taken into account, but Mark is the one taking the heat.”

Starting Sunday, that heat will be on Campbell. He hasn’t played a full game since completing 11 of 18 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown in Auburn’s 16-13 win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 2, 2005, capping a 13-0 season. He since has been limited to appearances in preseason games with reserve players.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve done that,” Campbell said. “But that’s all part of it, getting back into a rhythm and getting used to playing a full game again. But I have great veterans around me. I have a veteran receiver group, a veteran offensive line and Ladell has played a long time. I’m surrounded by a great cast.”

Betts will take over as the starting running back Sunday in place of Clinton Portis, who broke a bone in his right hand in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and is expected to be placed on injured reserve today. Though he won’t have Portis’ services, Campbell will be able to rely on playmakers that want more chances to get involved in the passing game.

“This is a test for me,” Campbell said. “Nobody knows when their number is going to be called, but now that mine has, it’s a matter of me preparing myself by watching film, studying hard and getting ready to play.

“I talked to guys like McNabb, McNair and Charlie Frye who have been in similar situations, and they told me to approach the game by being myself and keeping your head if you make a mistake because you’re going to get better from game to game.”

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