Hue Jackson still has a lot of confidence in Jason Campbell.
For the first time in three years, the quarterback buzz in Bengaldom didn't concern Andy Dalton. Ever since he arrived in the 2011 draft, his backup had been a necessary evil, a topic shoved to the backburner for another day.
Saturday was that day.
But only after his cool, steady No. 2, 79-start Jason Campbell, melted in the preseason opener with two pick sixes while suffering a bruise on his throwing arm that looks like is going to take him out of practice much of this week and makes him questionable for Saturday's 7 p.m. game against the Jets at Paul Brown Stadium.
With fifth-rounder AJ McCarron already in rehab the Bengals had to dip into their telephone list and signed Tyler Wilson, a fourth-rounder from only a year ago.
Throw into the mix the emergence of No. 3 quarterback Matt Scott as one of those 15-minute celebrities favored by the internet who flashed veteran calm in a fourth-quarter rally and somehow Dalton became a mere footnote in a week the club gave him $17 million and a six-year extension.
A few observations:
Campbell, 32, is going nowhere. On Saturday, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson seemed as stunned as Campbell was Thursday night with the two pick sixes. When Campbell worked under Jackson in Oakland in 2010 and 2011, he threw 19 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions, a mirror reflecting his career line of 87 TDs to 60 interceptions.
First time out playing with new receivers and new surroundings and things happen.
"I don't panic with Jason. But he knows he can't throw interceptions anymore," Jackson said. "You just can't. No more than we can have a faulty snap or do anything that stops us from having success on offense. But that's my charge as a player. It's my job as a coach to bring it to their attention and then it's their job to respond to it. He will. He will, I believe that."
Scott, who turns 24 next month, isn't going to leapfrog Campbell to become the No. 2. Not now, anyway. Undrafted out of Arizona in 2013, he has yet to throw a pass in an NFL game and is on a developmental track headed to the practice squad.
"I've never seen him play in a game before. The thing I like about him was he was calm, he was cool," Jackson said.
Scott may end up dueling with Wilson for a spot on the practice squad, pending how and if Wilson plays in the wake of Campbell's injury. While Scott went undrafted, Wilson was a fourth-round pick of the Raiders last year out of Arkansas. But both are working on multiple teams after practice squad stints following their releases last preseason. Scott arrived here in the spring from Jacksonville. Wilson was cut this past Wednesday in Tennessee after he spent most of last year on the Raiders practice squad.
It would appear the only third quarterback on the 53-man roster is going to be McCarron. Whether he's healthy enough to start the season seems to be the only question. Even though he's throwing on the side from all over the lot including 55-yarders the Bengals have shown no inclination they're activating him anytime soon. They fear he came back from his stiff throwing shoulder too soon and that's why he went to the rehab field when camp opened. The indication is the club wants him in a long rehab program to build up the shoulder so that it doesn't happen again.
Campbell showed that veteran calm Saturday. He may have never thrown two pick sixes in a game before, but there isn't much he hasn't seen a s a former first first-rounder who has started games for four different NFL teams.
"I've had one interception go back for a touchdown in my career, and then I have two in one preseason game," Campbell said. "The first one was kind of iffy. I thought it was (pass interference). They called P.I. the second time, and the second time was less than the first time. But the second (interception) was a good job. He jumped the route. I saw the blitz coming; I've just got to see it and try to throw it over his head."
Campbell thought Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith mauled wide receiver Cobi Hamilton before he took off on a 36-yard interception return on the first pick. The Bengals were hoping that Hamilton would be more aggressive and that Campbell would throw the ball more outside or not at all. Campbell said the second one, a 51-yarder to safety Malcolm Bronson working on wide receiver Brandon Tate in the flat, wasn't a result of being late.
"It was on time," Campbell said. "It was just the fact that he jumped the route early and I saw there was a guy coming free and I was trying to get it out. It's just something that next time I have to see it a little quicker and throw it over his head when I see him breaking that hard."
Campbell is taking it for what it's worth. The injury looks to be more disconcerting to him, but head coach Marvin Lewis thinks he'll be ready to go next week at the latest.
"Having a better understanding of the guys you're playing with. You don't want any of those things to happen any time, but at some point they've happened to every quarterback before," Campbell said. "You're throwing an out route and the guy undercuts it and takes it back. You see it happen all the time.
"It's not like something where you say 'Dang it,' and get down on yourself. You say, 'OK, next time be more alert and if you see a guy coming free on you and see a guy driving that hard, just throw it over his head.' You constantly keep growing your game no matter how old you get. Like I said, I just can't believe this. It takes away from all the good plays that you had."
But make no mistake about it, they are very pleased and encouraged by how Scott played Thursday night. After struggling to complete 40 percent of his balls in practice, Scott hit seven of 11 passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns while becoming the game's second leading rusher with 68 yards on six carries. After he hit wide receiver Conner Vernon on a 12-yard slant for a touchdown with 51 seconds left, his quarterback draw for the two-point conversion cut the lead to 41-39.
And he did it all while fighting the most public vomiting episode not viewed first on TMZ. But everybody soon picked it up as he became a YouTube hero. Indeed, born in 1990, Scott isn't surprised that social media made him into an overnight icon.
"Everyone's calling me, texting, making fun," Scott said before Saturday's practice. "I think got 10-15 people sending me vines right after I threw up. I was like, this thing blew up quick. You really can't control it. Let people do what they want to do is my theory. Let's see what happens."
Jackson was left shaking his head. His teammates have been calling Scott "Willie Beamen," for the Jamie Foxx character in Any Given Sunday, but Jackson has never seen a guy do it "multiple times," even on the big screen.
"It just showed to me the guy has true guts," said Jackson quite literally. "I saw him and said, 'Hey guys he's throwing up.' When we called timeout I went to walk out there and I kept saying, 'Hey look buddy I got you.' I just thought he was going through emotion. The whole time I was standing out there here he is just bent over and it's still coming, and I'm saying to myself, 'Who are we going to put in the game here.' ''
While can wonder about running back Rex Burkhead in the single wing, Scott had all the answers. His touchdown pass to the rookie James Wright, a marvelous leap-and-grab that withstood a challenge, came off a check. But even more than that, it came off a 40-minute post-practice workout on Monday that Scott called with Wright and two other rookie receivers, Jasper Collins and Jeremy Johnson. In the world of the NFL, Johnson was cut Friday while Scott went viral.
"Even in the midst of all the throwing up and all that, he never wavered," Jackson said. "He just looked at me like, 'OK, Coach, what's the next play?' And I gave it to him and he executed it. I wasn't going to act like there was something wrong because I didn't want him to fall out because I didn't know who else I was going to put in the game. He didn't blink. Again, I have tremendous respect for anybody to continue to go out and play the way that he did. He did a heck of a job."
Scott admitted it wasn't the first time he had vomited while producing a rally. Like Thursday night, against USC he vomited and then on the next play threw a slant for a touchdown. He also vomited against Utah while being shrouded in speculation that season concerning possible concussions. On Saturday Scott said not true and thinks last week's incident is tied to a sinus infection mixed with his asthma.
"The (Arizona) training staff was worried. They were taking the heat for that at the time," Scott said. "People were worried they didn't get me out in time because of symptoms. I don't think that was the case. They took a lot of criticism for that and that really wasn't the case. But that's what people think."
What people were thinking Saturday is they've got a young guy with something when the lights go on. Lewis used him as an example in a team meeting and Campbell could appreciate it after seven years in the league.
"He went out there and scored a two-point conversion and gave us a little high step at the end of it," Campbell said. " It's like the coaches say, sometimes we forget it's still the same game you played as a kid. Sometimes we put too much stress on ourselves to make every play and do everything the right way. Sometimes you've just got to let the seventh-grader come out of you. Just enjoy the game. The best games you ever had are when you were just having fun. You know, not everything works out the right way, not every drop is the right way, but you're making plays and having fun. I think that was a good message that we talked about in our meeting."
It sounds like Campbell is going to try and have some fun the next time out, too.