NFC East: Al Borges
|AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais|
|Jason Campbell (above) says he learned a lot while watching quarterback Todd Collins lead the Redskins to the playoffs last year.|
ASHBURN, Va. -- Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell changes his expression at least once a month. He's the face of the franchise, but you'd never know it by the way he carries himself.
Somehow, he's staved off celebrity in a part of the country that worships its football team. In fact, I watched him walk past Joe Theismann on Wednesday without even being noticed by the club's legendary quarterback.
Earlier, I spent 45 minutes talking to Campbell about football and his other passion, fishing.
In a short time, he and new head coach Jim Zorn have created a special bond. And that's not easy when you're used to coaches leaving all the time. From the start, Zorn reminded Campbell of his former offensive coordinator at Auburn, Al Borges, who ran the "Gulf Coast" offense and helped lead the Tigers to a 13-0 season in 2004.
"There are a lot of similarities," Campbell said. "They're both very positive and not uptight. Zorn is a mellow guy who treats you like a grown-up."
Campbell laughed when asked about a recent team meeting that has become a running joke in training camp. Zorn stood up and talked to the team about the proper dress code on road trips. And he wanted to let them know that he wasn't as out of touch as they might think.
"I know jeans are popular for you guys," Campbell recalls Zorn saying. "I want people to feel good about what they're wearing, and part of fashion is unique denim."
In what must've been a surreal moment for the players, Zorn began naming off certain brands (True Religion, Republic, 7's for All Mankind) and noted that he understood that people would be wearing $250 T-shirts.
Then he turned around, pulled down his pants and tightened his belt.
"But I don't want you to wear saggy jeans," he said to roaring laughter.
Campbell characterized it as a breakthrough moment for the new staff. He also echoed what several other players, including tight end Chris Cooley, mentioned: Zorn is upfront about when practices, meals and meetings will be held.
It was a common complaint that Joe Gibbs liked to keep everyone guessing.
"I never asked how things were done with scheduling before," Zorn said. "This is simply how I believe it should be done."
Zorn has not tried to change everything about Campbell overnight. He believes in a gradual process. He's heard other coaches tell players to "stand tall in the pocket," but it's something you'll never hear come out of his mouth.
Even with 5-foot-11 Seneca Wallace in Seattle, Zorn wanted him to stay low in the pocket. He's asked Campbell to take wider steps to get to the back of his drop and he believes that bending his legs and being more athletic will allow him to be more accurate and have more velocity. In his preseason debut, Campbell appeared to be a willing pupil, completing all five of his passes, one for a touchdown, in a win against the Colts.
Campbell could've been insecure about the fact that his season-ending injury allowed backup Todd Collins to lead the Redskins to the playoffs last season. Instead, he stood on the sideline and studied Collins' every move.
"After everything this team had been through with Sean Taylor's death, I was thrilled to watch us go on that run," Campbell said. "I tried to learn as much as I could."
What he learned from Collins is that it's OK to check down several times a game if nothing else is there. Campbell was putting pressure on himself to make plays when he could've been dumping the ball off to running backs.
"Sometimes it's OK to throw a five-yard pass to [Clinton] Portis and let him run 50 yards," he said.
He spent part of his offseason fishing with his parents and girlfriend, a former Miss District of Columbia, in ponds and lakes near his home in Hattiesburg, Miss.
The family even accepted an invitation to fish on Brett Favre's farm one afternoon. He said that Favre was "off in the woods working on something," so they never saw him.
"Brett must not be fishing that lake very much," said Campbell, "because my mom and girlfriend were catching everything. When my girlfriend caught a 5-pound bass, Dad got really serious and started grindin'."
For more on Jason Campbell's trip to the Favre family farm, keep reading the NFC East blog.