BEREA--As the Browns prepare for the home stretch of the season, they have a veteran quarterback leading the team.
NFL coaches know the value of having someone who can handle adversity, specifically playing on the road with much on the line.
"I'm very pleased with Jason and what he's done," Rob Chudzinski said. "He's been efficient in running the offense. He's made good decisions. He's not turned the ball over. You know when tough stretches come, he can battle through adversity."
The players do, as well.
"He's a very good leader,makes good decisions at quarterback, can throw the ball really well," Joe Thomas said. "I've been very pleased with the way he's been running the offense. I like the way Jason's very calm under pressure because it leads to being able to make big plays when it matters.
"I just like that calm, steady presence at quarterback that he brings."
Campbell is 46-of-75 for 561 yards. He's completed 61.3 percent of his passes and has five touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a 106.6 overall rating, but has been over 110 in his two starts. He was the AFC Player of the Week for his 23-of-35 for 262 yards and three touchdown performance against the Ravens in a 24-18 win last week. His rating in that game was a season high 116.6.
Campbell says he's up for the challenge.
"I think my experience will help me down the stretch," Campbell said. "We have to take it just one game, one play at a time."
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Campbell gets it.
"My best advice to the quarterback is they can only score on one possession at a time," he said in a conference call Wednesday. "You have to play within yourself. A veteran player understands that he doesn't have to force the issue, but put (the team) in the right play."
Lewis said that he has been impressed with Campbell.
"I think he's a beautiful passer," Lewis said. "He's doing a good job of manning the game. He moves into the pocket and extends plays and he keeps plays going and has been making plays."
Campbell knows one of the biggest challenges is being able to stay together on the road battling crowd noise. He was effective in Kansas City in his first start and nearly helped the Browns knock off the undefeated Chiefs.
"On the road, we have to communicate together," Campbell said. "Communication and being patient are the important things. You really have to take it one play at a time."
Campbell also knows the Browns will need more players stepping up and making plays other than Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. He cited the emergence of Greg Little and Davone Bess coming up big in the win against the Ravens.
"That's what it's going to take going down the stretch, having other play makers," he said. "I'm excited the other guys are making plays."
Little had seven catches for 122 yards, while Bess had two touchdown receptions and a huge diving catch on fourth down to allow the Browns to effectively run out the clock.
The offensive line has kept Campbell clean, only being sacked four times.
"The guys around me are playing well," he said. "Down the stretch, we need to play well as a collective group."
Campbell has yet to turn the ball over in his two starts, but it's inevitable. He says it's important that a young team like the Browns don't allow a mistake to take them out of a game.
"(Turnovers) are a big factor in any game you play," he said. "But, when bad things happen, it's how you respond."
Pinkston Up: OL Jason Pinkston was activated from Injured Reserve on Nov. 11 and is eligible to play his first game this weekend. He started the first six games of the 2012 season at left guard before being lost for the season with a blood clot in his lung. He was cleared to return before training camp, but suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason on Aug. 15 against the Lions. He was placed on injured reserve/designated for return and was activated during the bye week.
Pinkston started all 16 games as a rookie in 2011 and the first six of 2012, all at left guard. However, John Greco filled in extremely well in his absence last season and earned a contract extension. He is expected to be continue at left guard, while Pinkston will likely back up Greco and Shawn Lauvao at right guard.
"Right now, Greco and Lauvao are the starters and we'll see how he progresses," Chudzinski said.
"Those two guys are the starters," he said "This is a big game and they're doing a great job. My job is to just be ready if my number is called.
"This is a huge game, we're playing for first place in the AFC North and there's no reason (to make any changes)."
Pinkston is just excited to be back on the field. His last regular season game was Oct. 14, 2012 against the Bengals.
"It's been a long time since I've been in (a regular season game)," he said. "There was a chance that my career could've been over (with the blood clot), but I've stayed mentally tough. I just keep preparing and stay ready."
On the Mend: RB Dion Lewis spoke to reporters for the first time since injuring his left leg in the preseason. He said the broken leg he suffered was more serious than first believed and thus why it cost him the season. He was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 26. He said he had a plate and screws inserted in the leg when the surgery was done. He said the injury tore some ligaments and was more severe than first thought.
"I'm doing fine, now," he said. "I'll be back better than ever."
He's in the second week out of the walking boot and is already rehabbing for next season.
"I twill be fine and will be able to do what I could do before (the injury)," he said. "I feel my leg will probably be stronger."
With the trade of RB Trent Richardson to the Colts after just two games, there was a good chance that Lewis' injury was a bigger blow to the Browns than what was let on after his injury.
Lewis said he was caught off guard by the Browns trade of Richardson.
"I thought it was a joke," he said. "I was like everyone else, I was really surprised."
Lewis was expected to rotate with Richardson and might have had the opportunity to take over as the feature back, if not for the injury.
"There's never a good time to get hurt."
Coming Full Circle: In a way, Campbell's start against the Bengals has come full circle. He was the starting quarterback with the Raiders in 2011. The Raiders were off to a 4-2 start when Campbell was lost for the season with a broken collarbone suffered against the Browns when he was hit by LB Scott Fujita and LB Chris Gocong. Losing Campbell, the Raiders then made a big trade and gave up two first-round draft choices to the Bengals to acquire QB Carson Palmer, for all purposes, ending Campbell's career in Oakland. He then signed a one-year contract to backup QB Jay Cutler with the Bears in 2012.
Campbell signed with the Browns in March as an unrestricted free agent to be the backup to QB Brandon Weeden. Now, Campbell has regained a starting position and is facing the team that traded the quarterback that replaced him.
"I haven't thought about it that way," Campbell said. "But I look at every game as an opportunity."
Campbell said he thinks the whole ordeal has made him stronger, but he always was working to get back into a starting position.
"That was the whole goal," he said. "I got hurt. (The Raiders) traded for Carson Palmer and I found myself in a (backup) position.
"You go through the highs and lows," he said. "You don't doubt yourself, but just keep pressing. It was tough to lose my job to injury and the (Palmer) trade hurt, but I think it made me a stronger person."
New Digs: Owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and President Alec Scheiner held a press conference at FirstEnergy Stadium Wednesday unveiling plans for a new jumbotron scoreboard among other improvements to "modernize" the stadium.
All Accounted For: All 53 players on the active roster were practicing Wednesday. The only player that appeared limited was TE MarQueis Gray (hamstring), who was on the side with trainers.