For a split second, as he gripped his left knee and writhed in pain he had never felt before, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell thought all the hours this spring and summer working on his game would count for nothing.
“You start to think about all the things and it was all going down the drain,” he said. “I was just hoping it wasn’t an ACL or MCL tear.”
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Luckily for Campbell and the Redskins, it appears to be neither, just a bruise sustained late in the first quarter of the Redskins’ 12-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night when defensive end Brett Keisel barreled into the back of Campbell’s knee following a 29-yard completion to Chris Cooley.
But Campbell dodged a big-time bullet — his leg did not buckle and the initial diagnosis was a bruise. Although an MRI was not performed, the Redskins are confident Campbell will not miss an extended period of time.
Keisel was penalized 15 yards on the play, but Campbell said he did not think the hit was dirty or intentional.
“I went to him and told him that,” Keisel said. “No one is ever trying to hurt anybody else.”
Campbell wasn’t the only Redskins player to go down. Strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington dislocated his left elbow late in the first half and could miss 4-6 weeks. Receiver Mike Espy sustained a season-ending knee injury.
Campbell was injured when Keisel used an inside move to get past rookie left tackle Stephon Heyer. Keisel lost his balance but managed to plow into Campbell.
Less than 15 minutes after his injury, Campbell returned to the sidelines with his knee heavily iced. After the game, standing outside the interview room, he was able to continue walking without crutches.
“It was a scary moment,” he said. “Fortunately, I was able to move my foot a little bit and that kept it from getting hit and saved me from probably getting an ACL tear.
“I can put pressure on it and that’s the good thing. I know it’s going to be stiff and sore, but I expect a full recovery pretty soon.”
The Redskins led 10-3 entering the fourth quarter but three Pittsburgh field goals — including a 19-yarder by Connor Hughes with 1:31 remaining — boosted the Steelers to victory.
At the time of his injury, Campbell was enjoying an improved performance compared to last week’s game in Tennessee. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 75 yards. Todd Collins replaced Campbell and capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd.
Collins was 10-of-13 for 74 yards and a 115.5 passer rating. If coach Joe Gibbs bases his decision on who to start the next two preseason games strictly on performance, Collins has to be the choice over Mark Brunell.
“I feel confident with Todd or Mark,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “Todd came in and played well to finish off the drive. As an offense, we felt like we moved the ball well and when we did get stopped, it was things we did to ourselves.”
The starting offense’s touchdown was their first in the preseason since Aug. 2005.
The Redskins’ first drive stalled inside Pittsburgh territory but not before Campbell converted third-and-long situations with a 14-yard play to Cooley and a 12-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El.
In addition to Campbell’s recovery, the offense faces two more issues during the final two weeks of the preseason: Pass protection (Pittsburgh had three sacks) and the running game. The starting offensive line has provided only 62 yards rushing on 29 attempts in the preseason.
Collins played one series in the third quarter, an 11-play, 50-yard drive that was capped by Shaun Suisham’s 48-yard field goal. The big play was Collins’ 32-yard pass to Todd Yoder.
The Steelers, playing their third preseason game, gained only 28 yards on their first 10 snaps. But a 21-yard Jeff Reed field goal as time expired capped a 16-play, 84-yard drive.
Washington was hurt on a run play. Khary Campbell might replace Washington at strong-side linebacker. Espy was trying to make the team as the fifth receiver.
After Hughes’ go-ahead field goal, the Redskins moved into Pittsburgh territory in the final seconds when Brunell hit Ryan Hoag for a 36-yard play over the middle. But penalties for delay of game and offensive pass interference (on Burl Toler) moved the Redskins back to the Steelers 41. William Gay”s interception of a deflected pass from Brunell with two seconds remaining ended the Redskins hopes.