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Wait Is Finally Over For QB Campbell

For Jason Campbell, the hardest part of Sunday's game against Tampa Bay might be getting used to playing a full game again.

"It has been a long time since I've done that," Campbell said on Tuesday at Redskins Park.

Campbell, of course, has participated in preseason games the last two years, scrimmages, OTAs and mini-camps. But the fact of the matter is, he hasn't played a full game since Jan. 3, 2005. That's nearly 22 months.

That day, Campbell guided Auburn to an undefeated season in leading the Tigers to a 16-13 victory over Virginia Tech in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. He was named MVP of the game after completing 11-of-16 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown.

Now, after a long wait, Campbell is the Redskins' starter. The second-year quarterback and former first-round draft pick replaces Mark Brunell for this Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Getting into a rhythm will be part of the preparation, and getting used to playing a full game again," Campbell said. "All I can do now is go with and take it one play at a time. The good thing about it is, I have great veterans around me. I have veteran receivers, a veteran [offensive line] and Ladell [Betts] and the running backs have played a long time."

Campbell has said that he has tried to model himself after quarterback Steve McNair, who entered the league in 1995 with the Houston Oilers-Tennessee Titans and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens.

McNair played in four games, starting twice, in his rookie year, though.

A more apt model for Campbell might be Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, who also did not play a down in his rookie season in 2002.

Another model might be Miami's Daunte Culpepper. Playing for Minnesota in 1999, Culpepper only a handful of snaps in his rookie campaign.

New Orleans's Drew Brees played in one game in his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers. Brees was eventually replaced in San Diego by Philip Rivers, who played in two games and threw eight passes as a rookie.

Of course, on Sunday, Campbell will match up against Tampa Bay's Bruce Gradkowski, a sixth-round draft pick last April who was thrust into action in Week 3 and was named the starter in Week 4. Gradkowski has completed 115-of-218 passes for 1,030 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His QB rating is 70.7.

As Gradkowski learns on the job, Tampa Bay has struggled to a 2-7 record. The Bucs are ranked 30th in the NFL in offense.

How will Campbell match up with these quarterbacks? Only time will tell.

It may be instructive to review how Campbell performed at Auburn to get an early read on how he'll perform at the NFL level.

In perhaps the biggest game of his collegiate career, Campbell came up big in the Southeastern Conference Championship game, leading the Tigers to a 38-28 win over Tennessee.

Campbell was stellar, completing 27-of-35 passes for 374 yards, all personal bests, and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 57 yards, giving him a total of 431 total offensive yards.

Of course, he was named MVP of the game.

Another indicator of Campbell's potential? The Volunteers had a defense filled with future NFL players: linebackers Kevin Burnett (Dallas Cowboys) and Omar Gaither (Philadelphia Eagles), cornerback Jason Allen (Miami Dolphins), defensive tackles Jesse Mahelona (Tennessee Titans) and Tony McDaniel (Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive end Parys Haralson (San Francisco 49ers).

Overall, Campbell finished his collegiate career completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 7,299 yards, 45 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

As a senior, Campbell completed 69.6 percent of his passes and threw for 2,700 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions in leading Auburn to its undefeated season. He had a pair of future NFL running backs by his side: Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of Tampa Bay and Ronnie Brown of Miami.

Perhaps most encouraging is that Campbell has been a winner. He posted a 31-9 record in 40 career starts at Auburn, including a 9-4 mark against teams ranked in the top 10.

For Campbell, Sunday marks the beginning of a new chapter in his career.

Asked what he'll bring to the offense, Campbell replied: "Just be myself. I need to do the things that got me to this point in my life. I'll be able to move around a little bit. I think that I can help stretch the field with downfield throws.

"We'll see how it goes. I am sure we are going to do things differently with me in there than things we did with Mark. We are two different quarterbacks."

The wait is finally over.

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