BOURBONNAIS, Ill. For most veterans, the first and fourth preseason games are a nuisance. For Jason Campbell, Thursdays preseason opener against the Denver Broncos is one of the most important games of his career.
Campbell, in place as the Bears No. 2 quarterback, will see significant playing time against the Broncos. He signed a one-year deal with the Bears last March 16 after finding little real interest in the free-agency market following his release from the Oakland Raiders.
The reality is that there are not 32 better quarterbacks starting in the NFL. But Campbell suffered a broken collarbone in game seven last season, the Raiders traded for veteran Carson Palmer, and Campbell hit the market without a true chance to demonstrate that his collarbone was healed.
Consequently, he has as much to prove in this first preseason game as any rookie trying to show he belongs in the NFL.
It does feel a little like being a rookie again, Campbell said. But I want to show everyone that Im back healthy, moving well, and make sure Im ready if called upon here. I dont want me or the team to miss a beat. During the season youre not going to get the reps anymore. You get better as the games go on.
Campbell was the 25th overall pick of the 2005 draft, by the Washington Redskins, and spent that rookie season as the No. 3 quarterback.
He has a career passer rating (82.8) near that of Jay Cutler (84.5) but also understands the need show that he is past his injuries.
The trouble there is that once the regular season starts, the vast share of practice reps will go to Jay Cutler. So when the preseason is over and Bears tighten focus for Cutler and the opponent of the week, Cutler will take the dominant share of reps.
Preseason is definitely the time for me to come out and show, Campbell said. I missed those last nine games last season so its been a while since Ive played a game. So its going to be good for me to get back out there, get back to playing again, seeing things and get to the point where I was before I got hurt.
Because thats the only preparation that I have before the season starts. Its not like I can go out there and just treat the game as another practice. I need to start moving around quickly, making decisions, because this is all the preparation Ill have before the season.