Friday, November 26, 2010
Jason Campbell confident as starter
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell insists he's not concerned about being benched in the middle of games, even though it's happened twice already this season.
Coach Tom Cable isn't worried about the situation either but stopped short of saying Campbell could quit looking over his shoulder.
Campbell was pulled out of last week's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third quarter and replaced by Bruce Gradkowski. It followed the benching of Campbell in Week 2, when Gradkowski took over after halftime and led Oakland to a 16-14 win.
That's not exactly stability for a team trying to stay in the playoff hunt, but it's become life as usual in Oakland, where the Raiders have had a revolving door for quarterbacks nearly every season since 2005.
"We talk about a lot of things all the time [and] he is OK with where we're going and what we're doing," Cable said Friday. "He understands it's the job. It comes with it."
Campbell was chosen the team's starter in the offseason shortly after being acquired in a trade from the Washington Redskins but has struggled most of the year. His 75.8 quarterback rating is 29th in the NFL and he's thrown only seven touchdowns with six interceptions.
Although Campbell was the starter during Oakland's three-game winning streak that ended with the loss to Pittsburgh, many felt -- and still feel -- the Raiders are better off with Gradkowski running the offense.
Campbell shrugged off the criticism and said it comes with the territory.
"I feel like for the most part in this season I had a pretty good year," Campbell said following Friday's short practice. "It happens. The main thing is you've got to push forward and keep winning and understand we're still in the fight."
Part of the issue has been injuries to Oakland's receivers. Wideouts Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have both missed playing time, as has tight end Zach Miller.
Heyward-Bey sat out the game against Pittsburgh with a sore hamstring but practiced without limitations Friday and is expected to start this week against the Miami Dolphins . Miller, who leads the Raiders with 36 receptions, is questionable with a sore arch but is still likely to play as well.
That's critical not only for the Raiders but also for Campbell. The trio of Heyward-Bey, Murphy and Miller have combined for 79 catches; the rest of the team has 91.
Miller, listed as questionable, stayed after practice and took extra reps with Campbell well after the rest of the team left.
"Anytime you miss weeks like they did, two and three weeks, you can lose your rhythm and you lose just that step," Campbell said. "It takes time. They're trying the best that they can. It's just that when you're fighting aggravating injuries, you can't push it too much, but you try to do what you can do."
Oakland is 3-3 in games that Campbell has started this year, though the win against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2 came after Campbell was replaced by Gradkowski.
Ironically, Campbell has continued to put up better numbers than Gradkowski. He's also been booed frequently at the Oakland Coliseum, where chants of "Bruce, Bruce, Bruce" have broken out at every home game this season.
The game against the Steelers marked the first time Campbell has been benched on the road since signing with Oakland.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who was behind the decision to replace Campbell against St. Louis, defended the team's call to put Gradkowski in the game against the Steelers. Gradkowski, who grew up 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, led the Raiders to a win against the Steelers as a starter in 2009.
Jackson said he was trying to give Oakland's offense a boost by making the change.
"By no stretch of the imagination was that about Jason," Jackson said. "It was just about a feel. Sometimes a coach has a feel and things need to change. We don't like to play musical chairs at quarterback, but sometimes you do whatever you think you have to do to win. Obviously it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to."
The Raiders (5-5) are one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) in the AFC West. With three of its final five games coming against the Chiefs, Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, Oakland can still win the division and end its seven-year playoff drought no matter who the quarterback is.
"I think it's just important for us to get on track, period, as a team," Cable said. "I want to run it better than last week, but I want to throw it better, I want to be better on third down on both sides of the ball and I want to be better in the red zone on both sides of the ball. Just overall it's important for us to get back to business."