ALAMEDA (AP) — Jason Campbell might have done enough to win back the starting quarterback job for the Oakland Raiders even after Bruce Gradkowski recovers from a separated shoulder.
Just last week coach Tom Cable said the quarterback situation was “clear cut” and Gradkowski would be the starter when he was healthy. But Cable backtracked Monday and said he might stick with Jason Campbell, who just led Oakland to its first three-game winning streak since 2002 following a 23-20 overtime win over Kansas City.
“I really haven’t wavered, but I do have a belief in me about, you know, when you’re dealing it and you got the hot hand, and things are going in the right direction for your football team, you know, why would you make a change?” Cable said. “That’s what I think right now, but in the back of my mind I also say, ‘It’s not really making a change. He was a starter before I made the change with Bruce and he’s kind of come back and done a lot of good things for our team.”‘
Campbell opened the season as the starter after being acquired in a draft-day trade from Washington. That lasted all of six quarters before he was benched in favor of Gradkowski at halftime of the home opener against St. Louis.
Gradkowski rallied the Raiders (5-4) to a win over the Rams and started the next three games before being sidelined by a separated shoulder against San Diego.
Campbell led a rally against the Chargers to give the Raiders a win and then had a miserable performance in his first game back as the starter against San Francisco.
But Campbell has been much better since then. He completed 57.5 percent of his passes the past three weeks for 743 yards, five touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 104.3.
Cable said he would probably announce his decision next Monday when he has a better grasp of Gradkowski’s health, but it’s clear which way it’s looking when the Raiders return from the bye to face Pittsburgh Nov. 21.
“What’s the negative of this?’ Cable asked. “Well I have another problem. I got two good quarterbacks healthy again. That’s the only negative I see about it. I’m probably leaning toward staying with the hot hand. That’s just where I’m at.”
It’s a far different tune than what Cable said a week ago after Campbell led the Raiders to a 33-3 win over Seattle.
“There’s no issue there in my mind,” Cable said last Monday. “What we’ve done is some nice things in the last two weeks. You got to take your hat off to Jason. … It’s a nice job on his part, as well as the rest of the offensive players. But, we know who our quarterback is.”
The Raiders could have plenty of other players back after the bye as there’s a chance that they could be completely healthy for the first time all season.
Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (sprained right ankle) and leading receiver Zach Miller (sore foot) missed the Chiefs game, but could be back Nov. 21 against Pittsburgh.
Oakland also could get defensive tackle John Henderson back from a stress fracture in his foot that caused him to miss seven games. Receivers Louis Murphy, who has missed two games with a bruised chest, and Chaz Schilens, who has not played since undergoing knee surgery in training camp also could be back.
The Raiders did well without those injured players, with Jacoby Ford catching six balls for 148 yards as a starting receiver. Chris Johnson and Jeremy Ware played well at cornerback, while Brandon Myers caught three passes and offensive lineman Khalif Barnes scored a touchdown on a tackle-eligible play as Oakland adjusted without Miller.
“Just seeing the guys go out there and perform has been great to watch,” Murphy said. “I can’t be more excited to be back a part of it. It’s just good for the overall team. That’s been our whole thing, receivers got to make plays, once we start making plays we’ll be able to get this thing rolling and the last two weeks that’s what’s happened. It’s just good to see that happened.”
The Raiders will practice Tuesday and Wednesday before getting four days off to relax. Then they will return to focus on a trip to Pittsburgh and a second half of the season that looks much more promising than it did just a few weeks ago when they were 2-4.
The key now is maintaining that momentum following the week off.
“If you don’t handle it right, it can be bad,” defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “You can gain a lot from it, and you can lose a lot but I think if we handle this thing the right way— the way things have been going—with the attention to detail and the ways guys have bought into what we’re trying to do, I think it’s going to be a really good thing for us.”
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