BEREA — Browns quarterback Jason Campbell will turn 32 on New Year’s Eve, but he believes he is playing the best football of his nine-year NFL career.
“I think I’m there, and I just feel like I’m in a different place as far as where my mindset is,” Campbell said Tuesday following practice. “I was having a good year going back to 2011. And back in 2008, for the most part of that season when we had a lot of injuries, things were going really well.
“But this is different. My goal now is to just work extremely hard, not try to stress about anything and just let it all hang out and have fun.”
The former Redskins and Raiders starter is coming off his best game in three years, leading Cleveland to a 24-18 win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens. He made numerous clutch throws in passing for 262 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns without an interception.
With the Browns’ running game largely moribund, it was all on Campbell’s shoulders to lead them to the key AFC North Division victory — and he did.
“Jason did it all and was just so poised back there,” running back Fozzy Whittaker said. “He was always looking forward to the next possession, the next throw, the next read.
“He never lets anything get to him, even when the pressure comes. Things like running for a first down and stretching for every last yard, you can’t teach that. It’s just something he has in him.”
Campbell’s gutsiness, however, came at a price.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder suffered bruised ribs when he landed on the football when Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata fell on top of him. X-rays were negative, but he said Cleveland’s bye week comes “at a great time.”
“Right now I’m just sore, but I am getting a lot better,” said Campbell, who has 15,243 passing yards and 81 touchdowns in 80 NFL games with Washington, Oakland, Chicago and the Browns. “We’re only two days removed from the game, so I’m just trying to get things back to normal. But I am pleased with the positive feedback that I’m getting.”
With three appearances under his belt, the Auburn product now owns the best statistics on the Browns in completion percentage (61.3), touchdown-to-interception ratio (5:0), yards per attempt (7.5) and passer rating (106.6).
Campbell also is the only Cleveland quarterback in the Super Bowl era to post passer ratings above 100 in his first two starts with the team. He scored a 116.6 against Baltimore and a 105.4 at Kansas City on Oct. 27, but refuses to toot his own horn.
“My parents always told me to keep everything even keel, never get too high or stay too low,” Campbell said. “But I do show more emotions on the field because it’s become part of the quarterback position to uplift the guys around you, whether it’s going good or going rough.
“You go the extra mile, but you also have to believe in the guys around you. Early in my career, I put pressure on myself to make every play, but I’ve learned that it’s all about trusting one other.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said he spoke with wide receiver Greg Little about maintaining his composure, but didn’t view his actions against the Ravens as being detrimental to the team.
“I think you always have to look at things on a case-by-case basis, and I didn’t (think poorly of Little) in that case,” Chudzinski said. “We just have to be smart.”
Little was flagged for two personal fouls during post-whistle altercations with Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo, who was not punished for them. Television replays on CBS appeared to show Ihedigbo choking Little at the bottom of a pile before his initial 15-yard penalty.
“It’s a hard situation because he blocked the guy, then the guy kind of came over the pile late,” tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “If a guy is doing stuff after the whistle and not within the confines of what you expect on the field, you understand why he’s upset. But that’s where the restraint comes in, knowing that he can do that on this one, but I’ll come back the next play and get a good block on him.”
The offensive line of tackles Joe Thomas and Schwartz, center Alex Mack and guards John Greco and Shaun Lauvao played the entire game against Baltimore. Wide receiver Josh Gordon also was on the field for all 71 offensive snaps. Cornerbacks Joe Haden and Buster Skrine and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson had perfect attendance on the defense’s 72 plays, while tight end Gary Barnidge topped Cleveland’s special teams by taking part in 21 of its 29 plays.
• Twelve players have started the Browns’ first nine contests, including Thomas, Greco, Mack, Schwartz and tight end Jordan Cameron. Defensive end Desmond Bryant, nose tackle Phil Taylor, safety T.J. Ward, Haden and linebackers Jackson, Paul Kruger and Craig Robertson round out the list.
The Browns activated guard Jason Pinkston from the injured reserve/designated for return list. He resumed practicing two weeks ago after suffering a right high ankle sprain in an Aug. 15 preseason game against Detroit.
Pinkston started the first 22 games of his career at left guard before developing a blood clot in his lungs last October. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was Cleveland’s fifth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
To make room for Pinkston on the 53-man active roster, tackle Rashad Butler was waived. The eighth-year pro appeared in Cleveland’s first nine games on special teams, but all of his offensive snaps occurred at tight end or fullback.
The Browns return to action at Cincinnati on Nov. 17. With a 4-5 record, Cleveland trails the New York Jets by one game for the final AFC wild-card playoff berth.
• Rookie linebacker Darius Eubanks was treated for a head injury during the Ravens game, but said the extent of it was a bruise above his left eye caused by his helmet.
• Tackle Martin Wallace has been a game-day inactive in all nine contests and is the only member of the Browns’ Week 1 roster not to step on the field. He is a rookie from Temple.
• Cleveland has held the lead for 203:32 this season, which is an average of 22:36 per game. Opponents have been in front for 227:42, while the score has been tied for 108:46.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.