Besides murderers, everyone deserves a second chance.
Even alleged drug user JaMarcus Russell.
The disgraced quarterback is attempting an NFL comeback, albeit with setbacks. But Russell has made steady progress, dropping 27 pounds after weighing 308 in January (his goal is to reach 270), and he has reworked his drop back and throwing mechanics with four-time Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia.
The stage is set for Russell’s epic quarterbacking return, but most NFL fans aren’t buying it. They remember a spoiled Raider who shunned teammates, skipped meetings and didn’t care for three seasons. The bust’s six year, $61 million rookie contract made Oakland’s season ticket holders despise him even more.
Russell’s track record provides no reason for optimism in his comeback bid, but the same was once true for other NFL redemption stories (most recently Adam Jones). So why can’t the washout return as a team’s third string practice fodder?
Russell owned a horrible stigma, but apparently it’s gone. According to a CBS Sports source, there is legitimate NFL interest in his progress. Hope remains.
Russell’s body still resembles the physique of an amateur sumo wrestler, but his gargantuan 6’6” Culpepper-esque frame remains intact, along with his rocket-propelled pigskin launcher. At 27 years of age, the quarterback has little wear from tackling.
Russell’s attitude will be a true mystery until he interacts in a pro locker room, but he now appears to be humble, which is absolutely necessary for his NFL employment. GMs will look for similarities in his 2007 combine interviews and his next one.
Garcia’s presence can be overlooked, but he is also a key piece in Russell’s reinvention. There is no better teacher for a former first overall pick than a man who emerged from the CFL. Russell and Garcia met in training camp in 2009, and while the journeyman’s tutelage couldn’t save the Raider then, perhaps with more time his wisdom can be absorbed.
But it all comes down to motivation, which Russell lacked (majorly) in the Silver and Black. Whether he’s broke, bored and/or delusional, the LSU star wants a run at the big leagues again, and he’s willing to get up off the couch to do it.
As far as realistic job opportunities, Russell will never be offered another multiyear deal, but an incentive-laden package would be best for both parties. In the modern passing era, franchises must scrap for capable backups, and if Pat White’s signing was any inclination, teams will dig through obscurity for talent. Bill Belichick may like a new project (if Ryan Mallet is traded), or the Jets and Bills could add to their circuses. There are openings abound in the NFL.
Russell’s chance as a starting quarterback died years ago. But if he can accept helping his comrades in a minor role and not be a negative presence, he can carve out a comfortable and lengthy clipboard holding career. That may not seem like success to some, but it’s Russell’s luxury to define. Josh McCown, Ty Detmer and Charlie Batch will tell you that they’ve had a lot of fun.