Linebacker Khary Campbell suffered a season-ending knee injury in the ninth game of 2004, his first in Washington. Every spring since, the Redskins have drafted two linebackers to threaten his job. In 2005, it was Robert McCune and Jared Newberry. In 2006, it was Rocky McIntosh and Kevin Simon. This year it was Dallas Sartz and H.B. Blades.
And yet, Campbell not only survives, he thrives. In 2005, Campbell led the special teams with 34 tackles. Last season, Campbell did it again with 37 despite missing the finale with a tender hamstring. While McIntosh is starting, McCune, Newberry and Simon are long gone. So Campbell didn’t worry when outside backer Sartz was chosen in the fifth round in April and middle man Blades in the sixth.
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“It happens every year,” said Campbell, 28. “It’s part of the job. Coach [Joe] Gibbs called and said they wanted to get depth at the position and it was nothing against me.”
The only effect the arrivals of Sartz and Blades have had on Campbell is to give him more snaps at the two outside spots. Campbell worked mostly in the middle last year as he was the only true alternative to starter Lemar Marshall. With the signing of London Fletcher, Marshall is now the leading reserve, but Campbell is next in the pecking order ahead of the rookies, one of whom figures to be cut.
“We tried to give Khary more snaps outside because he had so many in the middle last year,” said assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams. “The more you can do, the better you are. Khary’s a smart football player. We’re just getting ready for the inevitable [injuries]. Whomever we have to throw in there, we don’t want to feel like he’s not ready to go. We want to throw in the next-best athlete as opposed to the next guy on the depth chart.”
Campbell, who made the first start of his five-year career in place of the injured Marshall last Oct. 22 at Indianapolis, wishes he saw more time on defense but has come to accept reality.
“I guess the coaches think I help the team best on special teams,” said Campbell, who played in 13 games for the New York Jets in 2002-03 before coming to Washington. “I look up to a guy like James Thrash, who takes as much pride in what he does on special teams as he did when he was a starting receiver in Philadelphia. I’m proud of leading the team in special teams tackles. Special teams is controlled recklessness. So many things can happen so quickly on special teams that you have to be able to adjust on the run.”
On the sidelines
The Redskins had three curious late scratches: receiver James Thrash with an abdominal strain; safety Reed Doughty with a dilated pupil; and cornerback Ade Jimoh, who was sick. The Redskins later announced that Doughty’s problem had cleared up, and he eventually played in the game.
As expected, guard Todd Wade (shoulder) and running back Rock Cartwright (hamstring) joined previously scratched offensive tackle Chris Samuels (knee), running back Clinton Portis (knee), defensive end Jamaal Green (shoulder) and tight end Tyler Ecker (groin) on the Washington sideline last night.
Before last night, the Redskins had won their past six preseason games with the Steelers, emerging triumphant in Pittsburgh in 1993 and 1999 and at home in 1994, 2000, 2002 and 2005. However, that summer success hasn’t carried over to when it really counts. The Steelers have won the past three regular season matchups in 1997, 2000 and 2004. The teams meet again in 2008 in Pittsburgh’s first game that matters in Washington since 1988.
New vs. old
Steelers rookie coach Mike Tomlin was nine when Joe Gibbs, now 66, coached his first game for the Redskins in 1981. Tomlin succeeded Bill Cowher, whose first season, 1992, was the last of Gibbs’ first Redskins tenure. The only other head coaches then who are head coaches now are Gibbs’ fellow Super Bowl winners, Bill Belichick and Mike Holmgren. The only other head coach in 1992 still working the sidelines is Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel, then with Phoenix.
Among the other 1992 head coaches were Hall of Famers Don Shula and Marv Levy, Jimmy Johnson, George Seifert, Dan Reeves, Chuck Knox, Mike Ditka, ex-Maryland coach Bobby Ross and former Redskins coaches Jack Pardee and Marty Schottenheimer.
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