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After Long Wait, Collins Gets His Chance

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Todd Collins isn't the kind of quarterback who cracks joke in the huddle. He's not going to get butterflies, or feel nervous.

He's going to go in and be a professional. He's going to use his 13 years of experience to instill confidence in teammates.

For Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders, he's the perfect backup to Jason Campbell.

Except that Campbell suffered a dislocated kneecap Thursday night against the Chicago Bears and could be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

After Campbell suffered his injury, Collins came in to a scoreless Redskins-Bears game at FedExField. He completed 15-of-20 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Redskins to a 24-16 win.

Turns out that, in Collins's case, knowledge matters more than experience. Prior to Thursday's game, Collins had thrown 27 passes in the last nine seasons.

"I am familiar with the offense," Collins said. "I haven't had any reps lately, or any game action, but I do a pretty good job studying week to week. So I felt pretty good to be able to pick it up when my number was called."

Collins threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Todd Yoder late in the first half.

In a critical play in the fourth quarter, on 3rd-and-6, he threw a short pass across the middle to Ladell Betts, who caught it in stride and raced 16 yards for a touchdown.

"The [Bears] chose to bring some pressure," Collins said of the Betts touchdown. "They brought the safety and Ladell did a great job of recognizing the pressure. He went right up the seam and turned his head around. I managed to get the ball to him quickly before the defensive end dropped underneath him."

In recent weeks, Washington has had to settle for field goals in similar situations. This time, Betts' touchdown gave the Redskins a 24-13 cushion with a little more than two minutes to play.

"When we went out there on that last drive, I think everyone on offense wanted to score six points," he said. "We did not want to put the defense in a situation where we would be standing on the sidelines and watching Chicago drive down and possibly have a chance to win again.

"It felt good to go down there and get a sizable lead so we could relax a little bit."

Last offseason, right before OTAs, Collins talked with Gibbs about whether he had a place on the Redskins' roster. Gibbs assured him that he did.

Now Collins finds himself in position to lead the Redskins in the stretch run. On Dec. 16 against the New York Giants, he will make his first NFL start since 1997.

And at 6-7, the Redskins are still in the hunt for a Wild Card playoff berth in the NFC.

"I've waited a long time," he said. "I know I have been preparing as a number two to get an opportunity in a game for probably literally hundreds of games. This was really the first time where I was able to go in and get to play in a situation that really matters.

"We want Jason to get his knee better. That is always a priority in our thoughts. We are just going to try to press on if he can't be there."

Asked if he wondered if a starting opportunity would arise for him ever again, Collins replied: "You just don't know. I think that is kind of what drives me. I put in so many years preparing, that I knew if something did happen, I'd have to be ready.

"As the number of years and the games pile up, I don't want to let my chance go by and not be ready."

Against Chicago, Collins saw his first game action since the 2004 season when he was with Kansas City. He threw his first touchdown pass since 2002.

Collins was a second-round draft choice by Buffalo in 1995. He saw the most action of his career in 1997, when he started 13 games for the Bills and threw 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

A year later, Collins signed on as a backup to Rich Gannon at Kansas City, learning under Al Saunders for the first time that year.

Since 1998, Collins has also backed up Elvis Grbac and Trent Green in Kansas City and Mark Brunell and Campbell in Washington.

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