- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2007

The time for throwing out first pitches, making autograph appearances, filming local car commercials, bowling and golfing is over for Jason Campbell. With seven games of experience and countless offseason hours toiling at Redskin Park as his base, the first full season of the Campbell Era starts today when the Washington Redskins open training camp with a 5 p.m. practice.

“I feel like I’m ready for anything that will be thrown at me — I’m ready to help this team win,” Campbell said earlier this week.

The last two summers, Campbell knew he was a part of the future if not the present. But ever since getting drafted in April 2005, he figured this year would be his time.

“I felt like this year would be the first opportunity to start,” he said. “The whole [time] up to this, I’ve been preparing to start even though I knew I wouldn’t be playing. When I did get onto the field, it was an easier transition because I did have a chance to watch and learn.”

Now everybody will be watching Campbell.



With the exception of rookie safety LaRon Landry, all players are expected to practice, including running back Clinton Portis, receiver Santana Moss, right guard Randy Thomas and linebacker Marcus Washington.

Joel Segal, the agent for Landry — the sixth pick in last spring’s draft — said yesterday Landry remained at home in Louisiana, perhaps a signal that negotiations aren’t close to being finalized.

The player picked in front of Landry, Tampa Bay’s Gaines Adams, signed a six-year contract. ESPN reported the signing bonus/guaranteed money is $18.56 million.

The last Redskins draft pick to miss the opening of training camp was first-rounder Patrick Ramsey in 2002.

When Landry shows up, he will find a team determined to prove that last year’s 5-11 record was a fluke.

“Everybody kind of knows we need to come back and we need to straighten this thing out,” coach Joe Gibbs said after last month’s minicamp. “Everybody who went through what we did last year says, ‘How did we do that?’ We felt like we came off a positive [2005] season. … Our players as a group and us as coaches were embarrassed. It puts you in a serious mood.”

In response, the Redskins are getting serious four days earlier than last year. But don’t expect a heavy dose of two-a-days and full contact — the team has just five double sessions between tomorrow and Aug. 14.

“There are some things we’re going to change and how we go about doing things,” said Gibbs, adding that the changes would revolve around drill work. “You’re always tempering hard work and the contact with getting ready to play your first game.”

The Redskins went 0-4 last preseason and started the regular season 0-2 on their way to 5-11 and last place in the NFC East.

In an effort to be better prepared for the Sept. 9 opener against Miami, Gibbs and associate head coach Al Saunders must weigh Campbell’s getting extra work against his throwing too much during August.

Campbell, for one, wants a positive tone to be set by the time the preseason closes Aug. 30 in Jacksonville.

“It’s important to get some momentum going into the regular season,” he said. “We didn’t have that last year, losing all four of our preseason games. We got off to a really slow start, and I think that started in the preseason.”

The core around Campbell has remained the same as the salary cap-strapped Redskins addressed defensive needs in free agency and also used their first three draft picks on defenders. Campbell’s first two targets are Moss and tight end Chris Cooley, and he’s optimistic Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd can emerge after sub-par 2006 seasons.

“I’m very confident that any of our receivers can have outstanding seasons,” Campbell said. “I’m comfortable with each of those guys that if I get them the ball, they’ll make a play.”

The number of returning playmakers — Moss, Cooley, Portis, Ladell Betts — should help the transition for Campbell. Although it resulted in only one win, the Redskins had at least 336 yards of offense in each of their last five games. And that was without Portis (placed on injured reserve for the final seven games) and a hobbled Moss, who was limited with hamstring problems.

In the same offensive system for consecutive years for the first time since he was a teenager, Campbell — and the rest of the offense — should be able to hit the ground running instead of crawling.

Campbell compiled a 2-5 record as the starter, throwing 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He spent most of the offseason holed up at the team complex either working with Saunders and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, in the weight room or on the field throwing to skill position players.

“I hit it really hard from March to the first of July when Coach Saunders wanted me to get away and relax,” he said. “I didn’t want to regress. I felt I finished with a strong minicamp.”

Even if Campbell thrives, the Redskins again will be looking up at teams in the NFC East if the defense doesn’t improve. They fell from ninth to 31st in yards allowed (297.9, 355.5) and ninth to 27th in points allowed (18.3, 23.5). The subsequent overhaul included middle linebacker London Fletcher, second-year backer Rocky McIntosh, cornerbacks Fred Smoot and David Macklin and safeties Landry and Omar Stoutmire, along with to-be-determined scheme changes.

According to assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams, the Redskins opted to add players to the secondary instead of the defensive line in an effort to produce more turnovers. The Redskins’ 12 takeaways were by far the worst in the league.

“We’ve got to make plays,” Williams said last month. “We had no big plays last year. We have to set up our offense with short fields.”

The work begins with eight straight days of practice and then an Aug. 4 scrimmage at Baltimore. The preseason games are at Tennessee, home against Pittsburgh and Baltimore and at Jacksonville.

Staff writer David Elfin contributed to this article.

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