Russell responsible for his downfall


Vacation is over.

Figured it was a good time to burn the last three weeks of my yearly allotment, with minicamps over and usually little in the way of real news until draft picks begin signing (hello, Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell), with the starting gun for the flurry of contracts usually coming around the Fourth of July.

Who knew JaMarcus Russell would still be headline material?

Since I wasn’t on the clock when the Russell arrest went down, I’ll give you a few impressions of the situation and its aftermath, and those of you who are tired of reading anything about Russell feel free to abandon ship here and await news heading into training camp later this month.

— As I mentioned on my Twitter account, Russell’s alleged affinity for cough syrup was a rampant Internet rumor for more than a year. Many readers of this blog sent me e-mails about it. Some of them slipped into the comments and weren’t deleted. Most of my responses to you were that without some sort of documentation, it was off limits.

Russell hasn’t been found guilty of anything _ his attorney seems to think the whole thing will go away _ but an arrest report opened the door to making it news.

— I have a lot of respect for colleague and friend Monte Poole, but we don’t always agree.

Monte’s column which suggested the Raiders may have turned a blind eye to Russell’s problems provoked an angry club response which said they had done what they could to intervene in the “myriad” issues surrounding the quarterback.

No way the Raiders were oblivious.

They’ll never go into detail about what they knew and when they knew it, nor should they.

You think it was an easy thing for Al Davis to authorize Russell’s benching after proclaiming the quarterback would be “great” in the Lane Kiffin letter? There was plenty of speculation that Davis would never bench Russell.

That doesn’t happen unless Davis has information that there’s something else going on beyond poor play and practice habits.

When Russell emerged from the bench and actually led a game-winning drive against Denver on Dec. 20 and still couldn’t re-insert himself into the picture, that’s a pretty good clue the Raiders knew what they were dealing with.

Common sense says the Raiders worked to protect their investment and get Russell straightened out. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ultimatum presented around the time of the last minicamp about getting some help, taking a pay cut and attempting to work his way back from the bottom of the depth chart.

They went through this before with another highly-paid Russell. Darrell Russell couldn’t extricate himself from the party scene, and I’ll never forget Davis’ talking about him at a press conference following his departure. Usually stubborn and defiant, Davis sounded almost wistful for a moment, saying, “We just couldn’t win that battle” alluding to Russell’s issues which included drug suspensions.

This was before Darrell Russell was killed an an automobile accident in Southern California.

I’ve said before the Raiders are responsible for putting JaMarcus Russell into a Davis-Kiffin environment that made it difficult for the quarterback to succeed on the field, but the quarterback’s affinity for showing up in TMZ photos in Las Vegas and earning an underground reputation for partying were his choices as an adult to make. It wasn’t the fault of the Raiders, or Russell’s choice of friends. It’s on Russell.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer