Period of silence for Russell
While the debate continues whether recently dumped Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell(notes) is the biggest bust in NFL draft history, don’t expect the former No. 1 pick to defend himself publicly anytime soon.
For one, Russell headed to Arizona this week to start losing weight, according to two sources close to the player. Apparently, Russell is again more than 300 pounds and is looking to drop at least 25 before trying to sign with another franchise to revive his moribund career.
Second, Russell isn’t planning to do any interviews anytime soon because, well, there’s nothing he can really say that’s going to sound good to anyone around the NFL.
“If he complains about how he was handled in Oakland, that’s going to come off like he’s not taking responsibility,” said one of the sources close to Russell. “If he takes all the blame, it sounds noble but it’s not going to mean anything. He just has to get in shape and get himself in a situation where he can turn everything around.”
A key to turning things around is improving the basics that so failed him in three seasons with the Raiders. Right now, Russell is seen as a fundamental and mechanical mess.
“It’s so bad that his mechanics are even completely screwed up,” a second source close to Russell said. “There’s stuff they go over in high school that he hasn’t worked on the past three years.”
Some of Russell’s issues may speak to the franchise’s dysfunction as much as Russell’s well-documented lack of dedication.
Andrew Walter(notes), Oakland’s third-round pick in 2005, didn’t last long with the New England Patriots after being cut by the Raiders in July 2009. Another strong-armed passer, the Patriots concluded he was too big a project and released him in September.
“It was like six things he was doing wrong on every play,” said a Patriots source who also used the high school analogy. “It was impossible to coach him because there was too much to correct. … You just stood there and wondered, ‘What the heck happened to this guy?’ ”
In terms of Russell, the NFL should do a case study in how his career has been mismanaged so far, starting with the contract dispute that allowed him to miss all of his first training camp to how Russell, a guy with little self-motivation, was empowered by Raiders management when Lane Kiffin was fired.
All of that said, Russell has been such a catastrophic failure in his brief career that it’s very unlikely any team is seriously considering signing him at this point. Russell is only 24 years old and still possesses one of the great arms in the history of the game, yet he’s currently radioactive because he has been ruined through a combination of his own lack of effort and the ineffectiveness of the Raiders.
Cardinals considering Bulger
Don’t be surprised if the Arizona Cardinals make a run at former St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger sometime in July. According to a team source, the Cardinals coaching staff hasn’t been terribly impressed with the work of any of the quarterbacks on the roster, including veterans Matt Leinart(notes) and Derek Anderson(notes), this offseason as the team tries to replace retired Kurt Warner(notes).
If the situation doesn’t improve, expect coach Ken Whisenhunt to make a play for Bulger. The thinking is that the Cardinals may be able to revive Bulger’s career in much the same way they revived Warner’s career the past three years.
Because of his familiarity with the system, it is believed that Bulger – who spent eight seasons with the Rams – could learn the Arizona offense pretty quickly and be able to compete for the job relatively soon.
This and that
• Former wide receiver O.J. McDuffie was awarded $11.5 million earlier this month in his malpractice lawsuit over the failure of the former Dolphins medical staff to adequately inform him of an injury to his toe in 1999. The injury eventually forced him to retire prematurely. Give agent Ralph Cindrich, who did not represent McDuffie during the player’s career, some credit for the judgment. Cindrich served as the expert witness for McDuffie’s legal team.
• It appears that expert PR man Tony Wyllie has already started to work some magic on Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Wyllie was hired away from the Houston Texans to help the Redskins. Specifically, Wyllie is supposed to fix the terrible image Snyder has with Redskins fans. Snyder spoke to reporters last weekend, a departure from previous practice for Snyder. Still, it’s going to be rough sledding for Wyllie if Snyder allows his posse of hangers-on to say too much. Snyder regularly travels with a group of “advisors,” none of whom knows a whole lot about PR (or, more importantly, football). Also now on Wyllie’s plate is Santana Moss’(notes) reported links to Toronto physician Anthony Galea.
• Ben Roethlisberger(notes) has a long way to go to earn the trust and respect of Pittsburgh Steelers fans, but the troubled quarterback did manage a very nice gesture roughly two weeks ago. Roethlisberger and his father ran into a 5-year-old boy and the boy’s dad at a golf course in suburban Pittsburgh. The boy had a Roethlisberger jersey on and the quarterback obliged by volunteering an autograph and took a picture with the boy. The father relayed the story on Steelernation.com and finished by writing: “He put a smile on my family’s face today and I’m pretty sure my son will never forget it. If he does, he’s always got a nice picture and autograph to remind him I should have never prejudged the guy like so many others. I’m going to share this story with as many as I can.”