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With Campbell likely out for season, Redskins turn to Collins

ASHBURN, Va. -- Quarterback Jason Campbell doesn't appear likely to return for the Washington Redskins this season, leaving the team's playoff hopes resting on the arm of longtime reserve Todd Collins.

An MRI on Campbell's dislocated kneecap revealed that the injury probably would not require surgery, coach Joe Gibbs said Friday. The normal recovery time is about four weeks, but the coach and Campbell tried their best not to rule out a return.

Mark Brunell is the third quarterback on the Redskins' roster, but has not started a game since Week 10 in 2006. Brunell, who struggled in training camp after having surgery, has been the No. 3 quarterback for the entire season.

"We're taking things day by day and week by week," said Campbell, standing on crutches with a brace around his left leg. "We'll see how things improve over the next couple of weeks. The thing I have to do right now is stay off it as much as possible and let the swelling get out of it and see what happens."

Campbell was injured when his left leg buckled under the weight of defensive end Mark Anderson in the second quarter of Thursday night's 24-16 win over the Chicago Bears. Campbell would become the 11th of 22 regular starters for the Redskins to miss at least one game this season due to injury.

"You don't want to look at it. Your kneecap was sitting on the side of your knee," Campbell said. "It takes them two times to pop it into place. It's not a fun feeling."

Washington (6-7) likely needs to win its final three game -- all against teams jockeying for playoff position -- to reach the postseason. Collins, however, hasn't started a game in 10 years.

"This has been a tough year for us, period," right guard Randy Thomas said Friday. "And losing your starting quarterback -- it's a big blow."

The hope for the Redskins is that Collins can come through, just as he did after Campbell was injured against the Bears. Collins, who had not thrown a pass in three years, led four scoring drives and finished 15-for-20 for 224 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 144.6.

"Todd was awesome in the huddle," tight end Chris Cooley said. "It was so funny; he was so pumped up. We'd get a 4- or 5-yard run and he's like, 'C'mon, let's run it down their throats.' He's fired up about a 5-yard run."

Collins can be forgiven for showing such enthusiasm; the 36-year-old quarterback had been waiting a long, long time to get on the field. His only year as a No. 1 quarterback came when he started 13 games for the Buffalo Bills in 1997. He spent the next eight years playing behind Elvis Grbac and Trent Green in Kansas City, throwing only 27 passes from 1998-2005 before joining the Redskins last year.

But, while in Kansas City, he became an expert on assistant coach Al Saunders' offense. When Saunders brought the offense to the Redskins last year, Collins helped tutor the other quarterbacks.

"I've been with Todd a long time," Saunders said. "And there was no doubt in my mind if given the opportunity that he could perform at a very high level. I think he demonstrated what he is capable of doing."

Keeping it going won't be easy. After the Giants (8-4), the Redskins travel to Minnesota (6-6) and finish the season with a home game against Dallas (11-1).

And, overall, the Redskins still aren't playing very well. The shuffled offensive line is allowing too much pressure -- Campbell's injury is Exhibit A -- and the running game has become "very poor," to use Gibbs' words.

Clinton Portis is averaging 47.5 yards per game over his last four games. The defense continues to wilt in the fourth quarter, although on Thursday the offense compensated by aggressively moving the ball downfield instead of sitting on the lead.

Still, given the circumstances, the victory over the Bears showed a lot of fortitude. It came three days after Sean Taylor's funeral and during a short week in which the team didn't conduct a full practice.

"I was worried last night that we would emotionally be able to play that kind of a game," Gibbs said.

Cornerback Fred Smoot threw up blood during the game, had full-body cramps and received IVs for dehydration, but he schemed to get himself back on the field in the fourth quarter after he saw the defense give up big pass plays. Portis returned to the game after vomiting because of a stomach bug. Cooley didn't look good when he limped to the locker room to get X-rays on a bruised shin, but he returned and had a solid game. Cornerback Shawn Springs' availability was dicey because of a back injury, but he started and had two interceptions.

"I can't speak for everybody, but I'm under 'E' right now, riding off fumes," Smoot said after the game.

Accordingly, Gibbs is giving the players a four-day weekend. They'll return for practice on Tuesday. Gibbs said he'll even take a day off on Sunday.

"I wanted to give the guys as long a break as I could," Gibbs said. "They've been through a lot."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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