CLEVELAND — Jason Campbell didn’t think his ribs were broken. He made another correct read.
The Browns, who have been shuttling quarterbacks on and off the field all season, finally got some good news on that front: Campbell’s ribs are only bruised.
Campbell has energized the Browns and pushed them back into the playoff conversation. He may practice this week after his injury in Sunday’s 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Coach Rob Chudzinski said X-rays were negative and Campbell should be able to play Nov. 17 at Cincinnati.
“I’m very happy that he’s OK, obviously,” Chudzinski said Monday during a conference call. “He played really well.”
Campbell gritted it out and played through pain, matching a career-high with three touchdown passes as the Browns (4-5) ended an 11-game losing streak against the Super Bowl champions. The nine-year veteran was injured in the first quarter when he was sacked and had 340-pound nose tackle Haloti Ngata land on him. Campbell was briefly replaced by Brandon Weeden, who lost his starting job and jogged onto the field to some boos and groans from Browns fans.
Campbell returned after missing just four plays and led the Browns to a key division win.
He completed 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards, did not throw an interception for the second straight week and hit wide receiver Davone Bess on two crucial fourth-down plays — one for a TD, the other in the closing minutes as Cleveland used up time.
“You saw him from a leadership standpoint,” Chudzinski said. “The calmness out there, the ability in that final drive to make plays when that was crunch time and in a critical part in the game and just his presence with our younger guys. What he’s doing is really giving us a life.”
Maybe Campbell is the long-term answer for the Browns at quarterback. They entered the season hoping to find out more about Weeden, and quickly learned he couldn’t handle the pressure after going 0-4 as a starter. Brian Hoyer gave Cleveland a lift while winning two starts, but his season ended when he tore a knee ligament against Buffalo on Oct. 3.
Enter Campbell, who made 71 starts for Washington, Oakland and Chicago before signing with the Browns as a free agent in March.
But while some fans seem surprised by his performances in a loss to Kansas City and win over Baltimore, Chudzinski had faith Campbell, the 20th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999, would deliver.
“Jason has played a lot more than any of our guys,” Chudzinski said. “You see it during the week, him knowing what to expect in different situations and the questions he asks. He’s been through it and he knows it and when he gets out on the field, he’s been there before. That’s calmness. That’s a sense of confidence that our guys have, and I have in him.”
The Browns, who jumped the Ravens into second place in the AFC North, have a bye this week, giving Campbell time to heal.
Chudzinski knew Campbell was hurting, but could tell he was willing to do whatever it took to get the Browns their first win over the Ravens since 2007.
“Just looking at him, there was no way he was going to come out of that game and miss out for his teammates,” Chudzinski said.
Also, Chudzinski said wide receiver Greg Little sprained his right shoulder. Little had seven catches for 122 yards and was twice penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Little was initially flagged for throwing Ravens safety James Ihedigbo’s helmet after the two tangled in a pileup. A photo pulled off the TV broadcast shows Ihedigbo’s hands around Little’s neck area. Little popped to his feet and flung the helmet, drawing the 15-yard penalty.
Chudzinski hasn’t spoken to Little about the confrontation, but said his players need to know when to walk away.
“That’s part of the game and part of being smart and part of the control that I’m talking about,” he said.
NOTES: Chudzinski said LB Quentin Groves (ankle) and TE MarQueis Gray (hamstring) won’t practice Tuesday. LB Darius Eubanks has been cleared after being evaluated for a head injury and will practice along with LB Eric Martin (knee). Both were injured on special teams. … According to STATS, the Bengals and Browns are alone in first and second place, respectively, in the AFC North for the first time since the division was formed in 2002.