JaMarcus Russell was back in town. Sleek, dedicated, ready to play.
Hey, if Greg Papa can tell from a video that Russell’s face is thinner, who are we to disagree?
That’s what Papa gleaned from the Comcast SportsNet Bay Area “exclusive” in which poor Kate Longworth and a camera man were reduced to chasing alongside Russell to sneak in a few questions about his first offseason conditioning session.
This came a day after Willie Brown talked about the quarterback’s “significant” weight loss and newfound dedication after a difficult 2009.
The Raiders official company line?
No comment. Russell won’t be made available for the team for anything substantial until minicamp.
Seems to me if you’re convinced Russell is a new man, you waste no time shouting it from the rooftops, arranging interviews and photo opportunities to placate a fan base that voiced their displeasure in the form of boos a year ago. Some of these people are on the fence about renewing their season tickets and a little off-season optimism might push them back in the direction of the Coliseum.
There are only two reasons why the Raiders keep Russell under wraps:
1) They’re not convinced. Russell has a lot to make up for, and dropping a few pounds is only just a start. Let him win back his teammates for a few weeks and demonstrate something beyond merely showing up.
This story will play out over time and Russell needs to prove himself before he opens his mouth, although the Longworth interview had worthwhile comic elements.
2) To hell with the media, a longstanding Al Davis tradition. You cover the Raiders long enough, you get to know a lot of former employees in and around the media relations department who are eager to tell you how their hands were tied by a team philosophy. Don’t do anything to help them do the media do their jobs.
As a media member, you get used to it and work around it. But there are times when it does a disservice to the players.
If scenario No. 1 is the reason for keeping Russell away from public view, then why would Brown be on Comcast SportsNet with Papa, who serves as both the team’s voice and pro-Al mouthpiece?
The second scenario is the one that hurts a player like Russell whose public image in the Bay Area in particular could use some shrewd handling.
Take, for example, Russell’s disastrous 2009 season and how it was dealt with.
If it seemed that every game was preceded by a week-long examination of the quarterback position and it’s failings, part of it has to do with the routine of an NFL season and how the the Raiders failed to understand how it works.
Every season I’ve covered the Raiders, quarterbacks have seemed to have an understanding on how to best deal with the publicity demands of the position.
Especially after a bad game, every one of them _ without exception _ would plant themselves in front of their locker on Monday and take questions.
Although he didn’t lose that often, Rich Gannon’s expression was almost defiant, as if to say, `Here I am. Take your best shot.”
Kerry Collins did it, as did Josh McCown, Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski and whoever else had the job.
It wasn’t because they wanted to relive the experience.
They did it because they learned at previous stops that the best way to put a bad game to bed was to be done with it on Monday.
By doing so, their midweek press commitment (usually on Wednesday) became about looking ahead, rather than behind.
Russell almost never talks on Mondays, and decided to hold his weekly press conference in Thursday.
By doing so, after a poor game, the coverage took a familiar tone. On Monday, Russell’s teammates talk about the poor play at quarterback. The player’s day off on Tuesday has residual notes on the same subject. Wednesday might have something different, but on Thursday, Russell finally spoke and the whole issue is dredged up all over again.
Keeping in mind that for print purposes, Monday is for Tuesday, Tuesday is for Wednesday, etc., that means quarterback play becomes a primary focus for nearly the entire week simply because Russell hides out on Monday and doesn’t speak until Thursday.
No one with any clout has sat Russell down and told him how it works.
The Raiders take the position that they don’t owe the media (and by extension, their fans) anything, and operate in a cone of silence, and it’s as painfully inept as the the one The Chief and Maxwell Smart utilized on“Get Smart.”
Which, of course, doesn’t stop the Raiders from feeling persecuted about how the message is conveyed even though they make no professional attempt in conveying it.