JaMarcus Russell: The Raiders' Latest Enigma

Justin Smith@smittstylesCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders delivers a pass against the Denver Broncos during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Oh, J-Rock, why do you do this to us?

You make a plan to meet privately with wide receivers; you publicly encourage your teammates to finish OTAs strong and proud, and work hard.

You step up as the leader we've all been waiting for.

And then you miss the last day of OTAs with no explanation.

When I heard this reported by Mike Lombardi of National Football Post, and saw there were no other sources, I was understandably skeptical. In my comment on the story, I stated that no Raider beat writer, including Jerry McDonald, whom I trust implicitly, had mentioned anything about JaMarcus Russell missing Friday's OTA session.

So I sent Mr. Lombardi an e-mail asking for his sources. His response was blunt and to the point:

"My source. Was there at the practice. It is 100 percent accurate. McDonald does not attend all the practices."

I believe, via the e-mail and method the message was sent, that it really was from Mr. Lombardi. Not to mention the fact that I received it literally minutes after posting my comment on National Football Post.

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This was disappointing news to hear, so I asked Mr. Lombardi if he knew why. I had also mentioned that we, as Raider fans, take his musings with a grain of salt due to his past relationship with the team.

This was his response:

"He was mia. Missed wed too but I cut him some slack.
I am not anti Raiders. I love 99 percent of the Raider family. But most true Raiders feel as I do."

So, there you have it. Lombardi says that he witnessed the practices, and Russell wasn't there, and there was no explanation. He was simply MIA.

I'm sure there is a reason why Russell missed these practices, and that it's nothing to be overly concerned about. But with the questions surrounding his work ethic and worries about his dedication, him missing practices after showing such promising strides forward as a leader is a head-scratcher.

If he doesn't have a good reason or if he just blew off the practices, then I just don't understand this guy. But that can't be the case, or we would've heard more about it.

I'm confident that he missed the practices for legitimate reasons with the coaching staff's blessing. I hope there is a logical and rational explanation.

What we see from Lombardi above, though, would seem to contradict this. What I gather from him is that the coaches didn't even know why Russell wasn't there.

That's not what we want to hear going into training camp. Even though these are OTAs, without knowing more, Russell looks like a hypocrite for eliciting the team to work hard and then blowing off practice. I hope he keeps his private session with the receivers and tight ends.

I also hope there is a benign reason for this, and it means nothing.

Regardless, Russell has to stop giving the media and opposing fans ammunition to continually criticize him.