It's been one heck of a rollercoaster ride for former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Russell went from star college football player at LSU to the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. From there he was possibly the biggest bust in NFL history, both literally and figuratively.
Now the 27-year-old is attempting a comeback after being out of the game since 2010, and with Russell apparently taking this second shot at the NFL seriously, it appears some teams are starting to as well.
Bleacher Report has been chronicling Russell's comeback over the past couple of months, and cameras were on hand in February when Russell went through a "personal combine" of sorts with former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia and the trainers from TEST Football Academy.
At that workout, Russell ran his first 40-yard dash in over five years, clocking in at 5.20 seconds. That's hardly an impressive time, but TEST CEO Brian Martin stated at the time that his hope is that Russell will be able to run in the 4.80-second range at his pro day later this month.
A recurring theme in that video is one that has dogged Russell throughout his playing days. His weight.
Make no mistake. JaMarcus Russell is not a small man, nor will he ever be. However, upon arriving in Oakland, Russell's weight ballooned to well over 300 pounds, leading to such lovely nicknames for Russell as "JaMarshmallow" and "JaMichelin Man."
Russell's weight was also the subject of a more recent Bleacher Report video, and it's an area in which progress is being made.
According to Martin, Russell has lost nearly 30 pounds, and now checks in at about 280.
Granted, there's still work to be done in that regard, but it's a great sign that Russell has dropped the weight he has. For starters, it's a lot easier to elude pursuing pass-rushers if you weigh less than they do.
It's also vital that Russell show prospective suitors that he's serious about football this time around. His mushrooming weight in Oakland was indicative of a work ethic that was destroyed by the media.
Russell was labeled a lazy player, a guy who got his money and then just didn't care. The perception was that he would rather be in a buffet line than in a weight room, that he'd rather be at the movies with his arm buried in a bucket of popcorn than in the film room with his nose buried in a playbook.
That's a perception that Russell has to change if he's going to get back into the league.
Then there's the matter of Russell's accuracy with a football, or more appropriately the lack of it.
In Russell's three NFL seasons, he completed just over 52 percent of his passes, tossing 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions. Arm strength was never an issue, but there was very little telling where the ball would go once Russell let it rip.
That's where Garcia comes in. In yet another Bleacher Report video, the four-time Pro Bowler described how he's been working with the quarterback on his mechanics and footwork in an effort to improve Russell's accuracy and vision.
Frankly, it's hard to say what sort of impact Garcia is having on Russell's game. Yes, Russell looks good on the practice field, but every quarterback does. Until you get him in a game situation with pass-rushers in his face, it's hard to say whether Russell will show improvement or revert to bad habits and start airmailing passes.
Russell's comeback attempt has elicited more than a few snickers among fans, but the NFL isn't laughing apparently.
As Mike Freeman of CBS Sports reports, several NFL teams are reportedly following Russell's progress, with one scout saying that "I've been following his comeback story pretty closely. I think a lot of teams are. Good chance he gets a second shot."
The reason for that is simple. There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL. Ryan Lindley and Greg McElroy not only played in the NFL last year, but also started games.
I repeat. Greg McElroy and Ryan Lindley started games at quarterback in the NFL last year.
Nothing is guaranteed, and a lot still hinges on how Russell performs with scouts looking on at his pro day, but as things stand today JaMarcus Russell appears headed in a direction that will land him back in the NFL, at least for training camp.
What he does once he gets there will be up to him.
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