Back where we started


JaMarcus Russell is here, which does the Raiders no good Sunday against the Denver Broncos, unless they take the advice of Mike Shanahan.

“I personally think they should start him this week,” Shanahan told the Bay Area media by conference call Wednesday. “If they’re paying him that kind of money they should throw him into the fire and put him in against the Broncos.”

Not likely. Impossible, in fact. Russell isn’t even technically on the roster yet, as the Raiders will get a two-week exemption before making room for the proud owner of the biggest contract ever paid to a top draft pick.

Kiffin appeared to clear things up Monday with his endorsement of Josh McCown in the aftermath of a season-opening 36-21 loss to the Detroit Lions, only to have the NFL Network report McCown was injured and may not play Sunday in Denver.

Indeed, McCown has a cracked bone in his right index finger and an ankle sprain. He didn’t practice Wednesday. Both Kiffin and McCown said the quarterback threw some passes when the media was out of view (McCown was watching during warmups and individual drills), but this has the look of the whole “competitive advantage” thing all over again.

McCown has a problem with his hand that affects his throwing, and an ankle problem that affects his running. Throwing, running … no big deal.

So look for Daunte Culpepper to face Denver Sunday.

When asked about Russell’s arrival, running back LaMont Jordan said, “I’m just happy he’s in. Especially if he’s going to be the quarterback of the future, he needs to learn the offense,” Jordan added. “But right now, when I look up Daunte’s in the huddle so that’s my main concern.”

If McCown misses practice Thursday as well, it’s a slam dunk. You let a No. 1 quarterback miss a couple of practices if he’s far and away the best guy _ you do it with Rich Gannon when the backup is Marques Tuiasosopo, for instance.

More news and notes from the day JaMarcus showed up and the Raiders world changed forever:

— Hard to imagine a more likeable, down-to-earth guy than Russell. Even the fans most angry at the time he spent away from camp would probably change their minds just listening to the guy talk for 15 minutes.

He seems well equipped to handle whatever good-natured hazing he’ll get for being a wealthy rookie.

“Whatever the guys want, I’m going to give it to them,” Russell said.

There weren’t any particulars to be had regarding the contract issue, and at this point it’s not even important. He got the $30 million or so he wanted, guaranteed, and if it seems ridiculous he didn’t get it a long time ago, it doesn’t matter.

Both sides are convinced they were right and will live with the deal. It doesn’t make Russell’s ascension to the No. 1 quarterback job any easier, but if it gives him peace of mind, so be it.

“Once I signed the contract I did drop a few tears, just to know I’m a blessed person, very blessed to be in the shoes I am today, and I worked hard for it,” Russell said. “And I can’t wait to go out there and work even harder.”

— Kiffin’s plan is to get Russell some extra work after practice with practice squad players and get him some work with the scout team. Russell said he has been speaking with quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo on an almost daily basis and knew the playbook well enough to call out plays in the Lions game while watching it on television.

— Russell, giving props to the organization which has guaranteed him $30 million, said he never wanted to go anywhere else as negotiations dragged on.

“People said that about the Michael Vick incident, ‘They need a quarterback, you need to go over there.’ I was like, ‘Nah, I’m going to the Raiders. It’s just a matter of time before I get there,’ ” Russell said. “I knew deep down in my heart where I got drafted to and where I wanted to play at and I just couldn’t wait to get here.”

— Kiffin said Russell looked good during 7-on-7 drills and that he took extra conditioning. He said Russell looked much the same physically as he did back in minicamps.

— Center Jeremy Newberry (hamstring), CB Duane Starks (groin) and LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (groin) did not practice and all seem unlikely to face Denver.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer