QBs Campbell, Collins adapt to new plan
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jason Campbell knows there could be some mini-moments of chaos with Sherm Lewis calling the plays.
"There'll probably be a couple of plays I have in my head," the Washington Redskins quarterback said, "just in case if some reason it doesn't get in on time."
The Redskins spent Wednesday trying to get a feel for their new front office-mandated play caller. Lewis, who still carries the title of "offensive consultant" and has been out of retirement for only two weeks, stood before the offense's morning meeting for the first time and went over the passing game.
For coach Jim Zorn, who had his play-calling duties stripped by team management following Sunday's loss to Kansas City, the exercise required some major pride-swallowing.
"I need to have composure," Zorn said. "I need to understand what the reality of the situation is, and I think our players expect me to rise up. We expect them to play under adverse conditions. We expect them to risk it all. ... I'm conscious of what's going on. I'm not naive about what's going on, and yet I have to just hold back on any feelings and make the decisions."
Zorn revealed a few details about the team's awkward new arrangement. The plan remains for Lewis to sit in the coaches' box calling plays, but it will now be offensive coordinator Sherman Smith -- instead of Zorn -- who relays the play to Campbell. Zorn will be listening on his own headset.
Lewis will read the plays off a sheet, although it's unclear whether he'll completely understand what he's saying. While Lewis has a basic knowledge of the scheme from his decades of experience in the West Coast offense with other teams, Zorn said Lewis "doesn't know the protections" and "doesn't know the blitz schemes."
Yet he'll be in charge come third-and-5 on Monday night when the Redskins (2-4) host the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2).
"It is unsettling. I've never gone through this before. I've never had a play caller get changed in the middle of the season.” -- Redskins quarterback Todd Collins
"It is unsettling," backup quarterback Todd Collins said. "I've never gone through this before. I've never had a play caller get changed in the middle of the season."
And certainly not like this. While Lewis was a respected offensive assistant for several successful teams over his 22 years in the NFL, he received mixed reviews during the three seasons he actually got to call plays -- with the 1999 Green Bay Packers and the 2000-01 Minnesota Vikings.
Lewis retired after the 2004 season. The Redskins have kept him away from the media since his first full day on the job, when he infamously revealed he had been passing his time by calling Bingo games at a senior center. He was escorted by public relations staff past waiting reporters after practice Wednesday and declined a request to speak.
"I know he's been studying last year's game against the Eagles and seems to have a pretty good idea how he wants to call the game this week," Collins said. "It's the same plays. He might coach them a little differently or highlight some different areas, but the offense hasn't gone under an overhaul or anything like that."
The whole thing has a chance to look ugly against a heavily favored opponent on prime-time television. Then again, maybe it'll work.
"All he has to do is sit there and look at a book and call the plays," receiver Santana Moss said. "He really doesn't have to memorize it. We have to do the memorizing."
While the play caller is new, the starting quarterback stays the same. Campbell was benched for the first time in his career at halftime of the loss to the Chiefs, but Collins failed to provide much spark in relief.
Now Campbell gets another shot. He attributed his lackluster performance against Kansas City -- 9 for 16 for 89 yards and an interception -- in part because he was "distracted" by the team's multiple changes along the offensive line.
"I felt like I had to make quicker decisions than usual," Campbell said. "And sometimes that gets you in trouble."
The same front office, consisting of owner Dan Snyder and personnel chief Vinny Cerrato, that stripped Zorn of play calling also tried to replace Campbell as quarterback during the offseason. That fact led to one of the lighter moments of the day, when Campbell was asked if he feels he's now on a shorter leash after Sunday's benching.
He answered with a broad smile.
"I've been on a shorter leash since March," he said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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