After being drafted No. 1 overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 draft, JaMarcus Russell has been under a microscope.
There are those that question if he is worth the amount paid to him after a protracted holdout, lasting well into the 2007 season (info: a six-year contract worth up to $61 million, with $32 million guaranteed).
Others query whether the success he had in college, which ended with Sugar Bowl MVP honors, can translate to the NFL. Some are waiting in the wings with the 'bust' stamp in hand.
Through his second season—essentially his rookie season of play due to his time off-field in 2007—Russell put up numbers that were not stellar, but serviceable.
Throwing only eight interceptions in 368 attempts, he helped the team by doing what was asked of him: take care of the ball. To end a long season that saw the team go 5-11, JaMarcus went 49 of 78 for 626 yards, improving his completion percentage to 63.9 over the last three games.
During offseason training sessions, Russell was seen to be out of shape, and not giving 100 percent concentration. Dropped snaps and off-target passes were the norm. It was easy to see why some members of the media were so willing to apply the bust label to the third year quarterback.
Then, to end the imperiled OTA sessions, Russell made an unexpected move; he called a private passing camp for his young wide receiving corps.
According to published reports, Russell flew teammates Louis Murphy, Todd Watkins, Will Franklin, and Jonathan Holland to his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. In sessions that lasted anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours, Russell and his receivers worked a clinic with local high school players at his alma mater, Williamson High School.
“We worked out a couple days, and we worked on the things that we wanted to work on, without the pressure of having the coaches out there to nitpick, because we’re the ones ultimately who are going to be out there on the field,’’ said attending WR Todd Watkins. “So as long as we’re on the same page, and see the same way, that’s what really matters.’’
Given the pressure applied by newly-acquired backup QB Jeff Garcia, and the continued scrutiny placed upon his camp performance, it is time for JaMarcus Russell to build upon what he has accomplished.
His end-of-season statistics and offseason bonding with his young wide receivers has set the stage for JaMarcus Russell to finally accept the role of Oakland Raiders team leader.
As Russell expressed in a recent camp statement, he appears to be ready to take the lead.
"I could say myself, Jeff (Garcia), we have to be leaders whether we want to or not, that's your position," said the young QB. "Everybody looks at, 'OK that locker over there, that's your quarterback,' and looks up to him."
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