The last two Bears seasons have ended with Jay Cutler injured and the team going down in a blaze of backup QB ineptitude. Enter Jason Campbell. The eight-year veteran led Oakland to a 4-2 mark last year before breaking his collarbone; by the time he was back, his job belonged to Carson Palmer and he was in Chicago as Cutler's backup. Campbell was called in Monday for two series after Cutler's injury. He spoke with RedEye about the life of a backup quarterback.
Tell us then about that moment when Cutler went down.
When I saw that play, I saw [Detroit's Ndamukong Suh] grab Jay's arm. You're thinking, "OK, it's just a sack." But when I saw him pick him up and slam him into the ground on his shoulder side, I didn't know if it was a shoulder, a concussion or what it was. I immediately dropped my hat, dropped whatever I had in my hand and ran and got my helmet and started trying to throw really quick, because I know the amount of time you have to warm up is 30, 45 seconds. You're hoping that he's OK. At the same time, you're like, "This is your job. You have to go out and execute the best that you know how, find a way to get into a rhythm as quick as possible."
After he was injured and went back in to play, I just left my helmet on for the most part. I just kept staying warm, kept staying loose just in case, because you don't know how he's going to react on the next hit.
Did you learn anything during all your time as a starter in Washington and Oakland about the backup mentality?
I was pretty fortunate to be in a position where I had some good ones behind me. Mark Brunell was a guy who taught me a lot early on in my career. Todd Collins, when he came to Washington from Kansas City. They would tell you it's more difficult being a backup than it is being a starter. A starter, you prepare all week. You know what you're going to see. You go straight from warm-ups in pregame to the game. As a backup, you don't get those reps.
Once that pregame warm-up is over, you go and put your helmet down, put your hat on, but at the same time you're still trying to stay in tune with the game. But when your time comes to play, it's not like you flip that switch on [snaps his fingers] and you're good to go right then. You've got to get into a rhythm.
Coming to this year, I had no idea that I would be a backup. Coming into my eighth year, I felt that the progress I'd made in my career and the things I'd done in Oakland, turning the program around. We're winning, and all of a sudden you get hurt and you're thinking that you rehab and get yourself back healthy and you'll be right back into the starting role. Then all of a sudden it just don't happen like that. So it's been a real big adjustment for me.
If the Bears win the Super Bowl but you don't play the rest of the season, how do you think you'll react?
Shoot, I'd be happy! These are my teammates. This is a team. Football's one of the most team sports there is, so you win a Super Bowl, that's the ultimate goal in football. Whether you're a starter, a backup, a manager on the team, a trainer, anyone, you're going to be ecstatic.
Like I said, did I foresee myself being a backup in my eighth year? In my prime? No, I didn't. It happened a lot sooner than I thought it was going to happen. But it's the role that I'm in right now. It's the role I have to accept. And I'm going to do the best that I can in that role and make the best of it.
Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @readjack.
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