By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
Those who feared the spark quarterback Jason Campbell has brought to the Browns could be extinguished by the injury he suffered Sunday in a 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens can let out a sigh of relief.
Campbell has bruised ribs, but they’re not broken. X-rays were negative and Campbell will “probably” practice today, coach Rob Chudzinski said Monday during a conference call.
The Browns (4-5) have a Week 10 bye and won’t play again until they visit the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) on Nov. 17. So it’s the perfect time for Campbell to heal.
The Browns caught lightning in a bottle earlier this season when Brian Hoyer came off the bench and led them to back-to-back wins after fellow quarterback Brandon Weeden sprained his right thumb Sept. 15. But Hoyer’s storybook season came to an end Oct. 3 when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Buffalo Bills.
The Browns are thankful that Campbell’s injury isn’t expected to force him to miss time. He’s tentatively scheduled to address the media today.
“I’m very happy that he’s OK, obviously,” Chudzinski said. “And he played really well.”
Campbell was knocked out of the game Sunday for four offensive plays. Weeden, who was benched two weeks ago, temporarily replaced Campbell after inside linebacker Arthur Brown sacked him and 6-foot-4, 340-pound nose tackle Haloti Ngata landed on him with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
Campbell, though, pushed through the pain and played the rest of the way, completing 23-of-35 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, which tied a career high. He posted a passer rating of 116.6, took three sacks and did not throw an interception, helping the Browns halt their three-game losing streak and their 11-game skid against the Ravens (3-5).
In his postgame news conference, Campbell conceded his ribs were really bothering him and the injury made it difficult for him to throw. Still, he was determined to finish.
“I wasn’t coming out of the game,” Campbell said. “They would have to drag me out of the game. I wanted to stay out there with those guys and keep fighting. We talked all week about needing to get this win.”
Campbell made two clutch plays on fourth down, completing a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Davone Bess with 8:24 left in the first quarter and a 3-yard pass to Bess that extended a crucial drive with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The final fourth-down conversion helped the Browns chew up value time and led to Billy Cundiff’s successful 22-yard field goal with 14 seconds left.
“I think you just look again at what he was able to do moving around and being able to extend plays, create plays,” Chudzinski said of Campbell. “Fourth downs he was huge on. Those were great throws and great plays that he made and Davone made both in critical, critical situations. You saw him from a leadership standpoint, the calmness out there, the ability on that final drive again to make plays and extend that drive when that was crunch time and a critical point in the game. His presence with our younger guys and what he’s doing has really given us a lift.”
Campbell joined Derek Anderson as the only Browns quarterbacks since 1999 to register a passer rating of 100-plus in back-to-back games. Anderson accomplished the feat in 2007, when the Browns went 10-6 with Chudzinski serving as their offensive coordinator.
Campbell is now 1-1 as a starter for the Browns and 32-41 in his nine-year NFL career. Last week in a 23-17 loss on the road against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, Campbell completed 22-of-36 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, posting a passer rating of 105.4 and taking just one sack.
Chudzinski said he hasn’t studied Campbell’s entire career, so he couldn’t say whether he has been better than ever lately. But Chudzinski acknowledged that it’s certainly the best Campbell has played the past couple of years. Campbell, who hadn’t been a full-time starter since 2011 when he was with the Oakland Raiders, joined the Browns by signing a two-year, $3.75 million contract in March.
“Since April, I’ve seen him get better in a lot of things,” Chudzinski said. “I think he’s really speeded up his feet and his decision-making, and I think that a lot of credit goes to [offensive coordinator] Norv [Turner] in working with him in that area and him working on that himself when he’s not actually getting a ton of reps. So I can’t say enough about Jason as a professional and as a person and what he’s done here in a number of different areas.”
Weeden, the only other quarterback on the Browns’ roster, is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career. Drafted 22nd overall last year by the previous regime, Weeden lost his starting job after struggling mightily in consecutive losses to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, clearing the way for Campbell to provide a lift in each of the past two games, including the Browns’ first win over the Ravens since Nov. 18, 2007.
Chudzinski said the Browns have been looking for a third quarterback and will continue to do so, but they don’t feel pressed to sign one just because of Campbell’s injury. Chudzinski also pointed out that tight end MarQueis Gray and wide receiver Armanti Edwards are former college quarterbacks who can serve as emergency third stringers behind Campbell and Weeden.
“Jason looks to be fine,” Chudzinski said. “And unless there was a real sense of urgency that we had to do something right away, we’ll just continue to evaluate who’s there and be ready to move when we need to.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.