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Redskins regroup after pursuit of Cutler fails

- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

Having lost out to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Jay Cutler on Thursday, the Washington Redskins now have to reassure Jason Campbell that ownership and the front office are behind him.

The good news for the Redskins is that Campbell won't act like Cutler, who pouted his way out of Denver after it tried to trade him last month.

Moments after the Bears announced they had acquired Cutler for three draft picks (including two first-round selections) and quarterback Kyle Orton, Campbell remained as levelheaded and professional as ever.

"Truth be told, through the whole process, I was prepared for whatever decision they made," Campbell told The Washington Times in a phone interview. "I always kept thinking to myself, 'I'm still the Washington Redskins' quarterback.' "

Campbell entered this offseason motivated to perform because he's due to become a free agent next winter. In contrast to many other teams, the Redskins have declined to give their young quarterback a new, more lucrative contract. So Campbell now has the additional incentive of showing owner Dan Snyder - who orchestrated the trade talks for Cutler - that he deserves to become the long-term quarterback.

"You're going to play with a little more of a chip on your shoulder," Campbell said. "My mindset will be to play extremely hard. I would have done that regardless. I want to do everything I can to help us win. That will be my motivation even though I know that I was shopped around a little bit. I'm getting ready for the season and want to prepare myself for the best year I've had."

The Redskins were actively involved with Denver throughout Thursday in an effort to acquire Cutler. Cleveland, Chicago and the New York Jets emerged as the other front-runners, and the Bears completed the deal without involving a third team.

When the trade was announced, the Redskins declined to comment.

Even as talks continued at Redskin Park, Campbell worked out in the weight room and talked with coach Jim Zorn and several assistants and players.

"They all told me they believed in me," Campbell said. "That definitely meant a lot."

Teammates seemed happy Campbell was not traded and believe he will move on quickly from being offered around the league.

"Nobody wanted this trade to happen," center Casey Rabach said. "Jason's a good football player and a really good guy. He fits well with this team."

Said receiver Antwaan Randle El: "It's a tough deal, bottom line. You wonder how it will affect Jason. But he's so even-keeled, so I think he'll handle it as well as anyone could."

Campbell knows a lot can happen between now and the start of training camp. The Redskins hold the No. 13 pick and could draft Southern Cal's Mark Sanchez or another quarterback to develop him into their passer of the future.

"There's no guarantees in football," Campbell said. "You still never know what's going to happen. You can't jump to conclusions."

One conclusion Campbell came to while monitoring the trade talks was that he measured up well to Cutler, who has better statistics but a similar resume (just below .500 as a starter and no playoff appearances).

"People were saying, 'Cutler's a Pro Bowl quarterback and Jason Campbell, he's a pretty good quarterback and he'll always just be pretty good,' " he said. "I've been in a lot of systems, and a franchise quarterback doesn't develop overnight. A lot of guys who have been successful and are considered franchise quarterbacks haven't gone through what I've had to do to try and prove myself. Cutler went to the Pro Bowl last year, and I think I was headed in the same direction [until the 2-6 second-half slump]."

Added Randle El: "That shouldn't have all been on him. Now he can use this little episode to prove even more people wrong."

The Redskins also declined comment Thursday on news that the Tennessee Titans had filed tampering charges with the NFL regarding the signing of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who agreed to terms on a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Redskins five hours into the free agency signing period Feb. 27. The Redskins denied the allegations when they surfaced last month.

Under NFL rules, teams are prohibited from contacting agents for players still under contract with another team. The 49ers had to relinquish their fifth-round pick in last year's draft and swap third-round selections with the Bears after being found guilty of tampering with Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs. Since the 49ers didn't sign Briggs, the penalty figures to be more severe if the Redskins are found to have tampered with Haynesworth.