After the broken collarbone, Campbell spent a season backing up Jay Cutler with the Chicago Bears, waiting for his chance to prove he could still be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
That chance came three weeks ago, as he had the Browns on the brink of an upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, and then, engineered four scoring drives in a 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 3.
“I got hurt in Oakland and they made a trade for Carson Palmer,” Campbell recalled. “I found myself on the outside looking in, but my whole goal last year was to do a one-year contract and see if I could put myself in position to at least compete for a starting job. It came, but at the same time, you’re going to go through highs and lows in this business.
“You’ve just got to keep pressing on and continue to look forward, don’t ever doubt yourself or your abilities. You’ve just got to keep pressing. That was my whole mindset from day one since the injury and trade happened. Was it hard? Yeah, it hurt a little bit, stung, but it made me a stronger person and helped make me who I am now.”
The stronger Campbell has wasted little time in seizing the opportunity to lead the Browns. He has completed 45 of 74 attempts for 555 yards and five touchdowns without an interception and has taken only four sacks for 28 lost yards in two starts with the Browns.
“It does make you hungrier,” Campbell said. “It’s time for me to enjoy myself, go out and play football and not worry about things you can’t control. It was tough being a starter and losing your job to injury.
“I feel good. I think my experience helps me in this situation. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been able to go down the stretch, but I’m excited about the opportunity and look forward to keep moving forward, just taking it one game at a time, one play at a time.”
In addition, he has led the Browns to within a game-and-a-half of the front-running Cincinnati Bengals in the race for the AFC North Division championship. And he and the Browns have an opportunity to further close that gap with Sunday’s game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
“I just want to compete and have fun. I’m in my ninth season, so I’ve stressed and pressured myself enough in the past. Now, I just want to have fun and win games and do the best I can to help this young football team grow.”
And it is that mindset which has given coach Rob Chudzinski confidence in Campbell.
“I’m very pleased with Jason and what he’s done,” Chudzinski said. “He’s really been efficient in managing the offense. He’s made good decisions, has not turned the ball over. Even more so, when tough stretches come, he can respond to that adversity and battle through those tough stretches, and that’s a key to that position.”