- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

Knowing full well his on-field actions and not off-field words will determine his future as the Washington Redskins’ quarterback, Jason Campbell nonetheless remains unequivocal in his desire to stay with the franchise that drafted him four years ago.

But do the Redskins, despite their purported pursuit of Denver’s Jay Cutler and the fact they are working out Southern California’s Mark Sanchez, want Campbell?

“That’s up to them,” he said after a workout Tuesday at Redskin Park. “I definitely want to stay here. I like the D.C. area, and I like the fan support. I do think we’re a team that can win in the near future, and I do think we’re a team whose turn it will be to rip off wins year after year after year.

“Hopefully I can do things so they can know I’m their guy and I can take us where they want to go. I would like to get to the point where I know they really trust me.”

Campbell, 16-20 since taking over the starting job in November 2006, enters the final season of his five-year contract with a salary cap number of $3.89 million. Unlike many other teams, the Redskins have adopted a wait-and-see attitude instead of locking up their young passer.

Campbell will be an unrestricted free agent in 2011, but if the owners and NFL Players Association don’t extend the current collective bargaining agreement, he will be a restricted free agent (players will need six years of service to be unrestricted) and the Redskins could match any contract offer.

“I don’t have a new contract, but I can’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll let my agent [Joel Segal] and the media worry about it. The only thing I can do is prepare to have my best season.”

Even teams with established quarterbacks work out prospects, so Campbell shouldn’t be alarmed that Sanchez is coming to town. And Campbell brushed off any concern about the Cutler rumors, which the Redskins denied.

“I smiled about it and said, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Campbell said. “It went over my head. It’s March, and people want things to talk about. Everybody’s into the quarterback and anything that’s going on with him.

“I felt like I had good numbers last year,” Campbell added. “We weren’t a straight-up passing team - they passed more in Denver. In the first half, when our guys were healthy, we were rolling, and the only thing stopping us was us. A lot of things unfolded in the second that didn’t go our way. I feel I can be a top quarterback in the league, so that talk didn’t bother me at all.”

Campbell had 13 touchdowns and six interceptions to go with 3,245 yards last season. Cutler, whose Broncos also went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, posted totals of 25 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and 4,526 yards.

Campbell said he already has been able to separate the playing side from the business side.

“What we do is fun, but you have to take care of yourself, too, and at the end of the day it’s a business,” he said. “I can’t sit here and worry about being judged on every throw I make. I can’t start to say, ‘I just threw a ball in the dirt; I won’t get a new contract’ or ‘I just overthrew a touchdown pass; I’m not getting a new contract.’ ”

Campbell seemed a lock to get a new deal when the Redskins were 6-2 at the halfway point and averaged 364.3 yards and 20.5 points a game. By the end of the season, those numbers had dropped to 320 yards and 16.6 points.

It should be duly noted that running back Clinton Portis battled nagging injuries the entire second half and the lack of production from rookies Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis gave Campbell only two reliable targets: Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.

Regardless, Campbell is “encouraged” with the pieces in place.

“Even during the 2-6 [finish], there were chances to make plays and flip that to 6-2 or, at worst, 4-4,” he said. “I’ve met with [coach Jim Zorn] twice this offseason and had long conversations both times about the things we’re going to do and the things we’re going to change up offensively to try and score more points. We’ll do a lot of experimenting during the minicamps and OTAs and see how it works out. We’ve passed the learning aspect of this offense - now we’re retooling.”

One thing in Campbell’s favor is being in the same system for the second straight year. He was in Al Saunders’ offense for two years but played only 19 games; he already has 16 in Zorn’s system, Campbell’s third NFL offense in five years.

“Some guys in the league, they sit for their first two years but they’re in the same system, so when their time comes, it’s not like they’re learning on the go,” he said. “I was having to learn plays and get comfortable and get experience at the same time. I’ve been against the 8-ball, but at the same time I think it helped make me the kind of player I want to be in the future.”

Campbell hopes continuity on offense equates to a comfort zone for the players and increased production.

“It takes stability to get all of these things done,” he said. “It’s not built overnight or over a year or two. But I think we’re headed in the right direction, and my level of confidence and trust [in my ability] is really high right now.”

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