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Originally published Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Chambers gets free for Huskies

Fans wearing the "Free Chambers" T-shirts got their wish yesterday. Mercurial Washington receiver Craig Chambers was not only back on the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs


Fans wearing the "Free Chambers" T-shirts got their wish yesterday. Mercurial Washington receiver Craig Chambers was not only back on the field, but again making big plays in serving as one of the few highlights in a 56-17 loss to California.

Still unclear, at least in Chambers' mind, is why he ever needed to be freed in the first place.

"That's the hardest part," he said. "I didn't know why I wasn't playing."

The sophomore receiver from Jackson High School in Mill Creek played only at the very end of Washington's season opener against Air Force last week. Coaches said he wasn't playing as well in practice as his teammates were.

It was the same complaint a different set of coaches had a year ago before they finally let Chambers play. He responded with 408 receiving yards in the last four games.

Chambers apparently finally got it going enough in practice last week to get on the field. Yesterday he caught three passes for 65 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown from Isaiah Stanback in the third quarter that gave the Huskies brief life.

But afterward, Chambers still sounded uncertain why he'd ever been sidelined, though he said he knows that "coach [Tyrone] Willingham is really into how you do in practice.

"But I don't think I was practicing so bad where I deserved not to play. That was the most discouraging thing — that I didn't get to play at all. I felt there were other players on the team practicing just as good or worse than me. That was the hardest thing."

Chambers did allow that he'd done more in practice this week.

"I really worked hard on trying to run my routes," Chambers said. "Not just harder, but making it look like I'm running harder. I felt I was actually kind of slower. But I put more steps into my stride and after other people caught the ball, I tried to run up and block for them. It's hard to say what put me on the field this week, but whatever it was, I'll try to do it next week."

Willingham praised Chambers.

"When Craig got the opportunity to make plays, he made them and that was exciting," the coach said.

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Asked if Chambers would continue to play more, Willingham said, "If he keeps playing that way, yes."

The Chambers' saga took a strange turn Friday when his mother called KJR radio to complain about why her son wasn't playing.

"It was probably a bad thing to do," Chambers said.

But Chambers also launched a little defense of his own.

"You could say I'm more of a gamer, but I don't think I practice horribly," he said. "It's just different situations in practice. I wasn't really getting the ball that much in practice before. Last week, I was getting it a lot, scoring a couple of touchdowns. That let them know I was ready to play."

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