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Jason Campbell brings something new to the Raiders — hope

The new quarterback in Oakland has quickly inspired confidence in his teammates. Comparisons with his predecessor, the overpaid and overrated JaMarcus Russell, obviously work in his favor.

August 09, 2010|Sam Farmer

From Napa, Calif. — It was the kind of interception any NFL quarterback would welcome.

Jason Campbell, new quarterback of the Oakland Raiders, pulled off his helmet and walked toward the locker room at training camp recently when he was pulled aside — picked off, if you will — by Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

"I just told him he's having a great camp, straight up," Asomugha said. "What we have now at quarterback, we haven't seen in the past couple of years. . . . He may not be looking like Peyton Manning right now, but because we've never had it, it might seem that way. It's so new to us."

Asomugha stopped short of taking a direct shot at the pampered and wildly overpaid JaMarcus Russell, finally released last spring, but he clearly voiced what everyone at Raiders camp is feeling: This is a new day. For everyone.

"I feel like this is a fresh start," said Campbell, acquired in April in a trade with Washington. "There are a lot of young guys here, and I get a chance to grow with them. It's like getting drafted all over again."

If there's anyone in need of a career reboot, it's Campbell, who showed flashes of promise with the Redskins but also took a thorough pummeling, falling prey to 102 sacks since the start of the 2007 season, more than any NFL quarterback but Ben Roethlisberger and David Garrard. Only two of five offensive linemen played every snap for Washington last season, and there were eight starter changes at right guard, a revolving door that looked more like an open gate on game day.

"I've really never seen a quarterback take a beating like he did last year," said Raiders running back Rock Cartwright, a teammate of Campbell's in Washington. "There were plays when I was amazed Jason was able to get up and walk. He's battle-tested."

It's not as if the Raiders are a brick wall; they're shaky at both tackles but more stable at the interior spots.

For Campbell, a first-round pick in 2005, it's refreshing to feel wanted again. He seldom had that feeling in Washington, at least in the last couple of years, when the Redskins unsuccessfully pursued Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler.

"It was hurtful because sometimes you get frustrated," Campbell said. "You're putting in the time and effort, and it's like you've been thrown out there and you're getting all the blame. People who don't know any better think that way. That's the frustrating thing about it.

"I try not to even think about those things. I try to just keep going forward and focusing on the positive."

For now, one of those positives is working with Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who aided in the development of Carson Palmer at USC and helped Baltimore's Joe Flacco make the playoffs in his first two seasons.

Campbell is undaunted by the challenge of learning a new offense, as he did that several times at Auburn and went through four offensive coordinators with the Redskins.

"Every time you get to the point where you feel like you've accomplished this offense and you're about to get to the next step of it, you've got to move on to another one," he said. "There's always change, and you don't have that stability."

He said he's comfortable with what the Raiders have asked him to do so far, however, and the results are starting to show in the huddle — where teammates say he's more confident and commanding than Russell — and with his passes, which are largely on target.

Campbell has some capable targets in receivers Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy, lower-round picks who have proved themselves as pros, and a good pass-catching tight end in Zach Miller. Whether Darrius Heyward-Bey will live up to his draft position — No. 7 in 2009 — remains to be seen, but so far he's been a disappointment.

Can Campbell turn around a franchise that has an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons of double-digit losses? Asomugha, for one, isn't ready to saddle him with that expectation, but the cornerback does like what he's seen so far.

"The encouraging thing in the past was that maybe we had a new coach, or in the off-season we brought in a bunch of big names," Asomugha said. "So then you're just thinking, 'Oh, it's automatic. We're going to have a great year.'

"But the difference this year is what we're actually doing and what we're showing in practice. I can see it. I see us looking like a good football team. Before, you didn't always see it, but you kind of just figured it would happen because of what was going on.

"Now we see it. The product that we're putting out there looks good."

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