JaMarcus Russell Admission of Drug Use Another Chapter in a Sad Story
In the classic 'A Bronx Tale,' Lorenzo (played brilliantly by Robert DeNiro) tells his son Calogero "the saddest thing in life is wasted talent."
Those of us who witnessed the JaMarcus Russell years in Oakland would have to agree.
Russell's recent arrest and admission of abusing codeine is just the latest chapter in a story that has gotten progressively sadder as each season has passed.
Certainly, Russell had athletic ability. Incredible athletic ability. His arm was among the strongest ever seen.
"Raw talent" was a phrase often used to describe him after he was drafted No. 1 overall out of Louisiana State in 2007.
Russell also had size. Massive size. Listed at 6'6" and 260 pounds after he was drafted, his size stood out, even on a team with a 260-pound kicker.
He missed the Raiders entire training camp as a rookie, holding out because of a contract dispute.
When he finally signed, Russell did not take any snaps until December 2007, when he entered a game vs. the Denver Broncos in relief of starter Josh McCown.
During an interview with ESPN yesterday, Russell admitted that there was an unforeseen convenience in holding out of camp. "because I missed all of training camp, I didn't get tested when the other players got tested," he said.
Heading into the 2008 season, Russell was named the Raiders' starter. During this time, he said the Raiders management asked him about rumors that he was using drugs.
"They said they were gettin' word on the streets about me using drugs. Then one of the doctors came to me," Russell said during the ESPN interview.
He went on to explain that he had a prescription for codeine, but that it was not from the team doctor.
The Raiders had a chaotic and forgettable season in 2008, which saw them finish at 5-11. Russell registered 13 TD and 8 INT with a 77.7 QB rating.
Although his numbers were not considered up to par with a No. 1 overall draft pick, the fact that the Raiders coaching staff was in turmoil (the Lane Kiffin-Al Davis war climaxed with Kiffin's very public dismissal a month into the season) and a lack of a quality surrounding cast was more than enough to get Russell more time as a starter in the league.
Russell showed up to Raiders camp in 2009 fully expecting to be the starter and live up to his potential. Unfortunately, he had let his weight balloon to almost 280 pounds and there were rumblings throughout Napa that he was unprepared in addition to being physically out of shape.
As the '09 season progressed, the quality of Russell's play continuously disintegrated until he was removed as the starter on Nov. 15 in favor of Bruce Gradkowski.
Russell was moved to third on the depth chart, and only played one more time for the Raiders, in relief of injured Charlie Frye.
Russell finished the 2009 season with the lowest QB rating (50.0), lowest completion percentage (48.8), and fewest passing touchdowns (3, with 11 interceptions) of all qualifying quarterbacks.
He was seen as the poster boy for the sad state of the Raider organization.
After the disastrous 2009 campaign came to a merciful ending with the Raiders, there was serious talk about Russell being traded or released.
There were apparently no takers for Russell. The No. 1 overall draft pick just two years earlier, his stock had dropped to the point that he was released after clearing waivers on May 6, 2010.
The sad and incredibly fast fall for Russell was completed on July 5, 2010 when Russell was arrested in Mobile, Ala., for possession of a controlled substance (codeine).
Perhaps coming out to ESPN and admitting that he is struggling with an addiction is a way for Russell to attempt (or at least begin to attempt) to rehabilitate his image for a return to the NFL.
But with his weight apparently at or near 300 pounds and the fact that he has been spending more time in the clubs than in the gym, it will be an uphill battle for JaMarcus Russell.
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