Redskins

Bears Campbell gears up for big stage facing 49ers

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Bears Campbell gears up for big stage facing 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) When Jay Cutler got hurt last November, the Chicago Bears' promising season fell apart fast, with no capable backup behind him.

The Bears went from 7-3 and looking toward the playoffs to losing five of their final six to finish 8-8 and with no postseason berth.

Chicago acquired an insurance policy during the offseason, and now the Bears (7-2) will see if that move pays off. Jason Campbell is set to make his first NFL start in more than a year in place of the concussed Cutler in a key NFC showdown with the San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) on Monday night at Candlestick Park.

It's not like Campbell hasn't been in big games before. He has 70 career starts to his name in eight NFL seasons.

``It's a tough opponent we have Monday night. No one said it was going to be easy,'' Campbell said. ``So, we've got to go there, we've got to fight and play together as a unit.''

That was something Chicago couldn't do when Cutler broke his right thumb last fall, with Caleb Hanie playing in his place.

The Bears can't afford a repeat of their late-season demise, and that's why they brought in Campbell.

``We didn't handle last year well,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``Of course, it's documented we didn't. That's why we went out and we felt like we've upgraded the position. I know the guys have a lot of confidence in Jason. He's played a lot of football, started a lot of games, so yeah, we're hopeful. That's why we can't wait to get to this game. Injuries do happen, and we'll see exactly where we are, but we think we're going to be OK.

Campbell went 10-5 over his last 15 starts with the Oakland Raiders, completing 60.3 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 89.6 passer rating. He missed the final 10 games with a broken collarbone, then became a free agent and joined the Bears.

San Francisco is fully aware of his resume, and the Niners' defense doesn't expect many new looks with Campbell under center.

``We're going to take it as he's the starter, and we're going to go out there and do what we're supposed to do,'' 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. ``He's a veteran guy with a big, strong arm. I never felt he got his fair shake in Washington, the guys he had around him, and Oakland, also. Once he got injured, they just shipped him out and brought another guy in. We understand that he can make plays, and we can't go into this game thinking we have it made and the backup quarterback is in there.

``That's when you get embarrassed.''

For San Francisco, all signs point to quarterback Alex Smith starting after he also sustained a concussion last week in a 24-24 tie with St. Louis. He was still listed as questionable in Saturday's formal practice report, and spent the week practicing in a non-contact black jersey. The decision on Smith's status might not be made until Monday, within hours of kickoff.

And Lovie Smith insists all Chicago can do is prepare for the position, not one quarterback or another. Colin Kaepernick is Smith's backup.

This week, 49ers running back Frank Gore was rooting for both starting quarterbacks to get healthy in a hurry.

``We want their best, like they want our best,'' Gore said. ``I know they will want Alex Smith to play. We want Cutler to play.''

San Francisco got another scare when coach Jim Harbaugh missed most of Thursday to undergo a minor procedure for an irregular heartbeat. He returned Friday, energized and eager to get back to work.

Harbaugh said he spent extra time studying Chicago at home to make up for the half-day he missed.

``You're not here and the rest of the team's out here practicing, that's not a good feeling,'' he said. ``It's like, I've had that dream before many times where it's like you're supposed to be taking a test, or the team's out there practicing and you're not out there.''

San Francisco's defense knows it must slow down wideout Brandon Marshall, because Campbell will certainly target him with his 67 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns.

``He's their best receiver by far,'' 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ``And I'm sure he'll be looking for him.''

Gore still has memories of Cutler's five-interception day in a 10-6 San Francisco win at home the last time these teams met three years ago - and Gore's 14-yard touchdown run during a 104-yard night accounted for the lone TD of the game.

Plenty has changed since then.

``Both teams were down that year, both teams didn't have a good team. Now, we're doing good, they're doing good. It will be a good game,'' Gore said. ``They're coming off a loss. We tied. Both teams want to come out on top. Two good teams get to see how it goes on Monday.''

For Campbell, getting off to a fast start would be ideal against one of the NFL's top defenses. Everybody knows it could be a low-scoring night with two teams allowing fewer than 15 points per game.

``It's all about coming out in the first quarter and trying to set a tempo,'' Campbell said. ``As a quarterback, you got to not try to dictate the game, but do everything you possibly can to get your own rhythm, by not forcing things and everything like that.

``But, at the same time, just have fun. You got to let it hang out in a game like this.''

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this story.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Scherff, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.