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Last of Russell in ’09? Not likely

Raiders coach Tom Cable made it clear Wednesday he wasn’t looking at the elevation of Bruce Gradkowski to starting quarterback as a temporary move.

It’s hard to look at the schedule and conclude we’ve seen the last of Russell this season.

Over the next three weeks, the Raiders host Cincinnati (7-2), travel to Dallas (6-3) on short rest for Thanksgiving and then play at Pittsburgh (6-3).

It makes for a nice story to see the underdog quarterback jumpstart a sagging offense, delivering the ball smartly to wide receivers and engineering some competitive games and maybe even a win or two.

Let’s keep in mind Gradkowski has yet to lead the Raiders to a touchdown, and in his last start _ for the Cleveland Browns last season against Pittsburgh _ completed 5 of 16 passes for 18 yards, was sacked three times, intercepted twice and had a quarterback rating of 1.0 in a 31-0 loss.

That’s not meant to be critical of Gradkowski so much as illustrate he hasn’t exactly played for NFL powers of late, having bounced from Tampa Bay to St. Louis (he was cut before playing a game) to Cleveland last December before joining the Raiders.

If the offense continues to struggle over over the next few games, which end in one-sided defeats, look for the company line to be that Russell has cleared his head, improved his work ethic and is ready to return.

On Dec. 13, the Raiders host the Washington Redskins before road games at Denver and Cleveland, allowing Russell a chance to pull out of a tailspin much as he did last season.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer