JaMarcus Russell Remains Dazed and Confused About His NFL Return

JW NixSenior Writer IIOctober 22, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders is helped up after getting hit against the Denver Broncos on September 27, 2009 during an NFL game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In a modern day society, where short-term memories are prevalent, JaMarcus Russell walks around each day with the "bust" label on him like a permanent tattoo. 

"Biggest NFL Bust Ever" is probably used a lot more than he realizes, even if it is unfair and living in the moment way too much. History shows us that there are many players drafted first overall, like Russell was in 2007, who did not have the career many had anticipated. 

While Russell carries the term of biggest bust now, relieving Ryan Leaf of that title, it mainly comes from the fact that he held out for more money before ever playing a down professionally. He got $61 million with $32 million guaranteed, then proceeded to win just seven of his 25 career starts. 

Those unaware, or unconcerned, with NFL history, fail to realize his seven wins actually exceeds many other former first overall picks, in terms of career production. Russell, however, walks around with the label and unemployed. 

He was given the label of drug addict too, thanks to a concoction called "Purple Drink". He was caught in possession of an elixir that contained the narcotic codeine, when the police raided his home over the summer. Though a friend of his took responsibility for making the drink, the damage was done. 

Russell is now under the tutelage of former NBA player John Lucas, whose own professional career was derailed by drugs until he sobered up. Lucas has gone on to have success as an NBA coach, yet he still tries to help others kick substance abuse addictions. 

While working out under the watch of Lucas, Russell went on record saying he would never play for the Arena Football League or Canadian Football League. Calling Lucas an angel sent by God, he also said,"Guys in the NFL that came back had some things more serious (than his situation). I think that's a minor setback." 

Lucas, who was the first pick of the NBA's 1976 draft, played for six teams over 14 seasons. He played with the Houston Rockets, the team that drafted him, three different times over his career. He said, "What I saw in him was me 33 years ago when I was out in Golden State. His troubles started there and so did mine after I left the Rockets." 

What Russell now expects is a second chance in the NFL, thinking his time with Lucas will serve as his penance. There is a huge pool of unimpressive quarterbacks like him in the NFL today, making is feasible a team will invite him to a training camp in 2011.

Russell is confident about his imminent return. "I know for a fact it's going to happen. I can't say when, but until it happens I am going to stay here in Houston and continue to work out each and every day no matter how long it takes. I need to be there (in the NFL)." 

What any NFL general manager can read from Russell's message is he is a man content to rest on his laurels. He seems to feel he is owed a tryout because he was the first overall draft choice in 2007, instead of proving his worth. Men like Steve Howe and Roy Tarpley were given several "second chances", thus making it reasonable he is given his too. 

He had a chance to do so immediately after the Oakland Raiders released him a few months ago. The United Football League was right there as well to showcase his skills and desire to the many NFL teams in need of an upgrade at quarterback. He decided he was either above the UFL or not ready to play professional football at the moment. 

One of the biggest complaints about Russell was that he showed little desire in the NFL, while seeming content to cash his paychecks. He seems oblivious to this complaint or perhaps there is truth to this belief.

Though it is admirable of Lucas to try and help another lost soul, this might be a case where the soul doesn't want to be helped.

Instead of buckling down, intent on proving the critics wrong and proving to himself that he can be a great NFL quarterback, Russell seems content on finding another team that will give him more paychecks to cash.