By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, February 26th, 2011 at 5:19 pm in Oakland Raiders.
There’s an elephant in the room at the NFL scouting combine, and it’s name is JaMarcus Russell.
The top quarterback in this year’s draft doesn’t figure to get the kind of money Russell received in 2007 once a rookie wage scale is in place within a new collective bargaining agreement.
But quarterback is a substantial investment, but a growing number of coaches and general managers are talking up work ethic, decision making and leadership skills _ all areas which Russell failed miserably, lasting three years and costing the Raiders $39 million.
The Raiders won’t be looking for a quarterback early in the draft, but one of their former quarterbacks, Rich Gannon, invoked Russell’s name when assessing Auburn’s Cam Newton for a story which will post later tonight and run in Sunday’s Bay Area News Group papers.
Newton raised eyebrows earlier this week when he talked about being not just a football player, but an “entertainer and an icon.”
You can imagine how that went over with Gannon.
“People are going to make the obvious comparison. A lot of people were in love with JaMarcus Russell. But I think there’s so much more to playing the position than pure skill. If you put Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in shorts and put him out there with some of these guys, it’d be embarrassing. They’d get clobbered,” Gannon said.
“But put them in a small space, in a system, these guys are like surgeons. From the shoulders up, how much professional football does this guy understand? Punts and coverages and pressure packages and can he get in and out of plays and audibles. It’s a process for a lot of young guys. Certainly the kid doesn’t lack confidence.”
Understanding the NFL will take countless hours and Gannon wonders if Newton is mature enough to be ready to put in the time.
“I’ve got to tell you, what’s really a concern for me is some of the comments he’s made, his conduct since the end of the season. A month before the combine, to have a workout in California for media only was a mistake,” Gannon said. “I think is comment about coming out and being an entertainer and an icon. That’s not the kind of guy I want in my building. I’m not looking for a guy on Tuesdays that’s doing commercials and signing autographs at the mall. I want a guy that’s in the building. I think he you turn a lot of people off when you make those kinds of comments.”
Newton acquited himself fairly well at his press conference. He talked about being dedicated and football being his top priority, and said his “entertainer and icon” quote had to do with promoting an endorsement deal with Under Armour.
Virtually all the quarterbacks talked up the preparation aspect, having been well-schooled by their agents.
The quarterback taking the worst beating at present is Arkansas Ryan Mallett, who declined to confront rumors of drug use (a denial would have been a good thing if he was in a position to deny it). Should Mallett fall far enough, he could find one fan by the name of Al Davis in Oakland based on this one quote alone:
Q: How far can you throw a ball?
Mallett: I can throw it 80-plus.