ASHBURN, Va. - Jason Campbell still has a shiner under his right eye, the result of a hit he received two games ago. The pounding he's taken from his own organization this year has been just as bad, so it's no surprise he doesn't utter the usual "yes" when asked if he wants to be back with the Washington Redskins next season.
"I just pray about the situation, and whatever happens is going to happen," he said. "And I'll be ready for any situation whether it's here or whether it's somewhere else."
Campbell could be making his last Redskins start when Washington visits the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in their regular-season finale. His contract expires at the end of the season, and he'll become either a restricted or unrestricted free agent, pending the outcome of NFL labor talks.
While owner Dan Snyder and coach Jim Zorn don't see eye-to-eye on everything - indeed, everyone expects Snyder to fire Zorn next week - they seem in agreement that the Redskins can do better at quarterback. Snyder tried to acquire Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez last offseason, and Zorn's assessment of Campbell on Wednesday was candid and measured.
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Zorn started by saying Campbell had improved in two seasons in the West Coast offense, that the quarterback is better at reading coverages and picking secondary receivers, has a quicker release and is more of a threat to run.
"A lot of the people want to just label every quarterback - he's got to be a franchise player," Zorn said. "I don't know if that is where he's at. I don't think it is, but I think he just continues to improve as a starting quarterback in this league."
Asked if Campbell can become a franchise quarterback, Zorn had a long pause.
"I think the way he works, I think his grit and determination, he can," Zorn said, "but in every instance the QBs all have help from other guys, so that remains to be seen."
Since becoming the starter midway through the 2006 season, Campbell has looked like the type of quarterback who can guide a talented roster to success but not take over a team and lead it there. His 18 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions this season are both career highs, and his QB rating is reliably in the mid 80s.
But he's also been hamstrung by constant change around him. He played for four offensive coordinators at Auburn and has had three different offensive systems in his five seasons with the Redskins. He's expecting to have to learn a new scheme next year, either with another team or under a new Washington coach.
"I'm used to it by now," he said with a laugh. "At the same time, how many offenses are really out there?"
Campbell also has been unable to get comfortable in the pocket because of the Redskins' failure to address the offensive line. He's been sacked 100 times since the start of the 2007 season, third most in the NFL behind Ben Roethlisberger and David Garrard.
Campbell has been speaking more freely as the season winds down.
He said he thought some players quit during a 45-12 Monday night loss to the New York Giants and said he's "been hit so much, it's not even fair" after getting shut out 17-0 by the Dallas Cowboys. Both comments were made on television to Comcast SportsNet while feelings from the games were still raw, but they show a player approaching the exasperation point.
There's one more reason for Campbell to be piqued. Unless the NFL and the players' union reach a new collective bargaining agreement soon, he'll become a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent. Restricted free agents are far less attractive on the open market because the player's old club can have the right to match any offer - and his prospective new team might have to give up a draft pick as compensation for signing him.
In other words, his long-awaited free agent payday might be less lucrative than imagined.
"If you're a guy that's been in the league a long time, and you know you're pretty much set, you probably have a different opinion about it," Campbell said. "But if you're a guy that's in my position, it's going to affect us not just short term but long term."
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