When he exited the league in 2009, former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell was widely regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL history. Just two years after getting drafted first in the 2007 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, Russell exited the league amid rampant reports about his abuse of codeine syrup. He instantly became the punchline of every overrated joke that anyone could come up with, and hasn't been seen for years around the league, until recently.
JaMarcus Russell reportedly started training for an NFL comeback in early 2013, when news broke that he was working out to get back into better shape (Russell weighed over 300 pounds at the time of the announcement).
Since that announcement, Russell hasn't gotten any real interest from NFL teams, until now that is.
Earlier Tuesday, Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com reported that JaMarcus Russell is going to be working out for the Chicago Bears on Friday, along with two other quarterbacks. Given that the Bears currently have three quarterbacks on their roster (Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard), it took some people by surprise.
The workout, however, could be a good thing for Russell and the Bears, who both could use a revamping after some disappointing past few years.
After going 10-6 last season but still missing the playoffs, head coach Lovie Smith was fired, along with much of the coaching staff that he had with him in Chicago. Then, after much thought and consideration, eight time Pro Bowl linebacker and Chicago Bears legend Brian Urlacher announced his retirement from the NFL after 13 seasons with the team.
So, after missing the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, it was fitting that the team got a makeover this past offseason, switching from a defensive-minded coach to an offensive-minded one, somebody who has been hailed as a quarterback guru and seemed to impress the players right away.
After saying that he would be calling offensive plays for the Bears, and getting Josh McCown back from free agency as well as getting Matt Blanchard from the practice squad, head coach Marc Trestman apparently still isn't done trying to build a deep system of quarterbacks who all know his plays in Chicago.
Russell, on the other hand, hasn't played a down in the NFL since being arrested in his Mobile, Alabama, home way back in 2009 for possession of a controlled substance (codeine) without a prescription. He has since said that he doesn't want to be regarded as a "bust," and wants a chance to sit and learn behind a veteran quarterback with a team in the NFL.
Don't forget that current starting quarterback Jay Cutler is also in a contract year this season. If he performs well and gets hot at the right time, we've all seen what it can do to a player's wallet. If he fails, however, it could mean unemployment. If Russell were to join the Bears, he would get to sit behind Jay Cutler, and if Cutler had an amazing season, Russell might learn a thing or two in Trestman's system.
If he has a terrible season, however, and he fails to get his team to the playoffs this year, it could be the end of the road for Jay Cutler in Chicago, meaning that Russell would have an actual shot at an NFL starting job, depending on how he did under Trestman the past year.
It's a complicated scenario, but one that could make sense for Russell. If Trestman really is the quarterback guru that everyone says he is, then who better to learn from while trying to stage a big-time comeback? The world has been waiting to see what a leaner, meaner JaMarcus Russell can do after shedding 50 pounds since his comeback announcement, putting him at 265, right where he was when he came into the league.
On Friday, Russell will try out for the first time, hoping to land a spot on the Chicago Bears roster, and get this comeback on the road.