It would appear that Jason Campbell has come full circle.
Two years ago he was at the peak of his NFL career, starting for the Oakland Raiders against the Cleveland Browns. Campbell had the Raiders 4-2 and people were talking about him as a rejuvenated player.
But in that game he had his collarbone broken on a tackle by Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita. Days later, the Raiders traded with the Cincinnati Bengals for Carson Palmer, and Campbell was, as he said, “on the outside looking in.”
Sunday, Campbell starts for the team that injured him against the team that traded the guy that ended his career in Oakland. It also features the guy who traded him in Oakland -- Hue Jackson -- coaching for the Bengals.
The entire thought made Campbell laugh.
“I haven’t really thought about it that way,” Campbell said.
Typical Campbell -- who is about as placid as any player in the league is in recent memory.
“I’m in my ninth season,” Campbell said, “and I have stressed and pressured myself before in that past and now it is just about having fun and win games and do the best I can to help this young football team grow and continue to keep competing.”
Campbell readily admits he’s helped by his experience, and the experience he had two years ago was anything but pleasant. With one tackle, he went from establishing himself with the Raiders to seeing Oakland give up two high draft picks for Palmer, a guy who never worked out in Oakland.
The Raiders made the move because Jackson thought he was close to a championship. But the Raiders finished 4-5 under Palmer, and the next season Campbell was looking for a team.
“Was it heartfelt?” he said. “Yeah, it hurt a little bit. It stung. But I think it made me a stronger person and helped make me who I have become right now.”
He wound up signing with the Bears for 2012, even though they had Jay Cutler. Odd as it sounds about signing with a team with a clear starter, he went to Chicago to re-establish himself.
“My whole goal last year was to do a one-year contract and see if I could put myself in position to compete for a starting job or one day find myself back in this position, and it came,” he said. “But at the same time, you're going to go through some highs and lows in this business and you've got to continue to keep pressing on and just stay looking forward.
“Don't ever doubt yourself or doubt your abilities because situations don't seem to flare up the right way that you think they should at times. You've got to keep pressing and that was my whole mindset from Day 1 since the injury and trade happened.”
Easy to say, and a lot had to happen for Campbell to even get a shot. “A lot” included Brandon Weeden struggling, and Brian Hoyer hurting his knee. Even with that, Campbell was twice passed over for the starting job.
Weeden’s struggles gave Campbell the job almost by default.
Yet he accepted what happened, just like he accepts what goes with it. His serene approach would make the Dalai Lama proud. It’s helped him for two games. Whether that continues, and whether he stays healthy, will determine how the Browns fare the final seven games of the season.
“Going through that you look back and [are] like, 'Why stress so much and put so much pressure on yourself?'” he said. “Because at the end of the day when things are going to happen and things are going to be done, it's out of your control.
“It's time to start enjoying myself and going out and playing football and not worrying about the things you can't control. It's going through the experience and understanding that. It was tough to be a starter and lose your job to injury. It's a hard pill to bite but at the same time I think it's made me a lot stronger.”