Campbell comfortable in own skin

September 25, 2011, 3:43 pm
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ALAMEDA -- For what seemed an eternity, Jason Campbell tugged at Nnamdi Asomugha's ear in a semi-secluded area of the Raiders' locker room.Confused. Angered. Embarrassed.Sure, Campbell had to be feeling all of those emotions. At once.Wasn't he the one the Raiders traded for to bring some sanity under center in the wake of the disastrous JaMarcus Russell episode? No one had ever questioned Campbell's work ethic, his leadership.And yet, here he was, figuratively being talked off the ledge by Asomugha, who had seen his share of weirdness over the years in Silver and Blackdom. Campbell had been pulled at halftime of his home debut as Oakland's quarterback. In his second game with the team after being acquired in a 2010 draft weekend trade with Washington.Heading into his second home opener, it's amazing how quickly things have changed for Campbell, who no longer has to look over his shoulder after every incompletion. This, without a doubt, is his team."Definitely," he said. "I felt that way last year, until early in the season. You get pulled that early, it will kind of stall you for a little bit. But at the same time, I moved past that and once I got back in there, I have always felt that way since then."That's my standpoint. It's exciting to lead this team. We are a young team in a lot of areas, but we're also an exciting football team that is trying to go places, and I am just glad to be in the position to lead these guys."Keep in mind that current head coach Hue Jackson, then the offensive coordinator, actually endorsed the benching of Campbell against the St. Louis Rams in favor of Bruce Gradkowski. Then remember how badly then-coach Tom Cable mismanaged the situation until Gradkowski was shut down for good with a bum shoulder late in the season.SInce then, with no need to worry about getting yanked for a fan favorite, Campbell has been on a roll. He has a 97.3 passer rating in the seven games since reclaiming the gig while completing 64.9 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and three interceptions."He's a great quarterback," offered Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. "He can make all the throws. He has a strong arm. He can probably throw the ball 100 yards."Revis giggled, presumably at his own hyperbole."I mean, he has a big arm, he can make plays outside the pocket well," Revis continued. "So, you know, I have high respect for Jason Campbell."Jets coach Rex Ryan remembered scouting Campbell in 2005 when he was coming out of Auburn."I just see a guy that has a bazooka for an arm," Ryan said. "He can make all the throws. I rememberhe was sitting on a knee and threw the ball like 60 yards, and I was like, 'Golly.'"He has that kind of arm talent, he really does. He's got some mobility and now he's been in the league a long time, so I think he's at his best right now. This is probably the best I've seen of Jason Campbell."In two games this season, Campbell has a 99.7 passer rating in completing 65.5 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and one interception, the Hail Mary into the end zone last week in Buffalo to end the game.He has an 83.1 rating for his career."Jason Campbell is as fine a quarterback as there in this league," Jackson insisted, "but his true measure is going to be winning and losing games. That was a tough one last week. He has to come out and go get after it this week. We got a very good opponent in our stadium, and he has to go play well."Campbell is 4-3 in his last seven games, and engineered the Raiders' near come-from-behind act in Buffalo through the air for a pair of scores when the run game stalled.And that went against the book on him throughout his career -- solid if unspectacular. He won't win many games for you, but he won't lose many on his own either."It's heartbreaking," Campbell said of the 38-35 loss to the Bills. "You look at it a day after the game, two days later, but at the same time you have to be able to put it behind you and move forward. I've been in games like that, at least four or five in my career, that happened like that and ended up pretty much the same way."It's tough because if you win that game, everyone is like, 'Oh, what a great comeback.' You lose that game, shove it out the window. Thats pretty much how it is."Especially for a guy finally comfortable in his own skin in Oakland.