It was enough to make Charlie Frye sit up and take notice, provided he was fully awake at the time.
Frye got to work at 6:30 a.m., and was pleasantly surprised to be joined by starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell two days after the worst day of his professional life.
“He got in here Wednesday, earliest he’s ever been,” Frye said. “I think he was in here at 6:30. That’s step one. The things he continues to need to do is stay the course and just maybe do a little bit more.”
Frye’s input is significant because Russell listens to him. When quizzed by the media Thursday about his benching, his development and a series of question regarding his work ethic that have come just about every week, Russell named Frye as someone he talks to for advice.
“He’s a guy that’s been in the game longer than I have and always get tips and reminders or whatever it is from him,” Russell said.
Last season, Frye became the first NFL quarterback to be named starter for the opener and be traded the following week, going from Cleveland to Seattle.
“I went through the same thing that he’s going through right now, being booed, being benched, and it’s tough,” Frye said. `And if you don’t have somebody there that you can talk to or just vent. You can’t hold things in.
“You have to work through this. This is probably one of the toughest parts of his life. If he can get through this, it will make him a much stronger person. I’m much stronger for what I went through.”
Frye said Russell comes in along with backup Bruce Gradkowski every Tuesday as well, but was particularly impressed to see him there early Wednesday about 90 minutes before the quarterback meeting at 8 p.m.
“There’s a lot of time spent in here,” Frye said. “For what had happened to him and for his attitude to get there that early Wednesday morning is impressive. That’s him taking the first step to fix what’s going on.”
The natural inference is that Russell is only now starting to work hard, instead of taking his job more seriously during the offseason and through training camp.
“I just think it clicks differently for different guys,” Frye said. “Some guys it happens really fast for them and some guys it takes a little bit longer. I think it took me to be able to go out there in Seattle and just sit back away from it and see how this thing really works.
“Some guys learn better through playing, through experience, other guys through film work. I know one thing, when the light switch does come on, you notice it really quickly. It’s just different for everybody.”
Russell seemed to concede there was some error in his play against against the Jets, something he was unwilling to do immediately after the game.
“There were mistakes out there,” Russell said. “Everybody saw that.”
Russell repeated that he simply wanted to be a “cheerleader” and do whatever he could to help after being removed. He said he’s talked with Al Davis during the season and had a conversation similar to the one Davis had with a reporter from USA Today during the owner’s meetings. The message was that he wasn’t first young quarterback to struggle and that things would get better.
He said Davis also told him “how we could change things around, some of the things we could do to do it better.”
Taking Davis’ message to heart, Russell said, “It’s gonna be OK, I promise. Just take my word. I can’t tell you when, but I know they are.”
He calmly took exception to a question about whether it sent the right message to be courtside at the Warriors’ opener Wednesday night.
“What I do in my personal life is not really what’s going on here,” Russell said. “So now you’re trying to tell me I can’t go enjoy my life. Going to a basketball game . . . I want to go see those guys play, hey, that was just something in my off time I wanted to do. I don’t think that was bad.”
Russell has a point. Also in attendance were Kirk Morrison, Tommy Kelly and Thomas Howard, and probably others.
Russell reiterated that judging him on his sideline demeanor would be a mistake. He’s said several times a high school coach taught him not to get too high or too low, to keep an even keel at all times. He said his teammates understand “a fire burns” within him.
Defensive end Greg Ellis compared Russell to quarterback Tony Romo, his teammate in Dallas.
“Tony Romo was not a take charge guy. If Tony were here right now, you’d all be mad at him because he’d be sitting here with a smile on his face,” Ellis said. “That doesn’t mean he’s not trying to win a football game.
“Some guys they take over. Troy Aikman was one of those guys that took assertiveness and was like a coach on the field. Tony Romo is one of those guys that is even keeled and pats receivers on the back and says, ‘Ok guys, that’s all right. Catch it next time.’ Where Troy is like saying some words you probably don’t want to repeat to the guys. Both ways can be successful.
“One way is not wrong, one way is not right. You just have to make sure you’re doing all you can do as a player to help your team.”
Ellis said he thought Russell “had too many people in his ear” and echoed the same sentiment most everyone does with the quarterback or one time or another. Ultimately, Russell’s success or failure will be because of Russell.
“God blessed him with a lot of talent. If he does everything, unturns every stone, then eventually he’ll be one of those great quarterbacks in the NFL,” Ellis said. “On the flip side, if he looks in the mirror and says, ‘I’m really not doing everything I can do to be the best I can be,’ then that’s on him.”
Frye’s message: “I think as you’re in this league more you see how things equal themselves out as the season continues to go on. It can’t be bad the whole time. And a lot of bad stuff has happened. But I think as the season progresses, I think it will even out with some good things.”
More to come . . .