America’s favorite NFL draft bust is back and with better excuses than ever. The same JaMarcus Russell who has been accused of binge eating, had his jersey burned by Oakland Raiders fans, and had his own life coach give up on him, sat down for an interview recently with Sports Illustrated. As expected, he shared some interesting comments about his struggles. Among the topics covered were the lack of support he received from the Raiders, and how the entire franchise seemed destined for failure.
“In the NFL, my first year, I had to be there at 6:30 before practice and be on the treadmill for an hour,” Russell told S.I.’s Jon Wertheim. Then meetings come, I sit down, eat my fruit. We watch film, and maybe I got tired. Coach Flip [quarterback coach John DeFilippo] pulled me aside and said, ‘What are you doing for night life?’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m just chilling.’ He said, ‘I need to get you checked out.’ I did the sleep test, and they said I had apnea.”
Not that it was the main factor contributing to Russell’s lack of success, but if he really did have sleep apnea that could certainly affect his ability to prepare and put the proper amount of work in. People always criticized his motivation and work ethic, so it would at least make some sense.
JaMarcus also set his sights on former Oakland coach Tom Cable, whom he said was not supportive during Russell’s time as the starting quarterback. The Raiders were a lousy team in areas that were out of a quarterback’s control, but Russell insists Cable did not see it that way.
“I stuck my neck out for him,” Russell said of Cable. “Didn’t complain when he benched me as the starter. Didn’t complain when he called the same plays five damn times. Didn’t [badmouth] him to other coaches. When the [media] asks me, I say, ‘He’s a good coach, a good guy.’ Then I hear he says I was the worst thing ever happened to the Raiders, if it weren’t for him we’d be in the playoffs?
“Things weren’t going right, and it felt sometimes like everything fell back on me. I take some responsibility, but I was one guy. . . . I may have missed a throw, but I didn’t give up 42 points, I didn’t miss a block.”
There are two ways of looking at Russell’s comments. On one hand, excuses are not going to help revive his career. People have a natural tendency to want to hear accountability more than they want to listen to reasons why things didn’t work out. On the flip side, he has a point. A quarterback who is selected first overall is expected to revive a franchise, but Russell was used as a scapegoat for an organization in peril. Heck, the Raiders didn’t even want Terrelle Pryor wearing No. 2 because they felt the jersey carries some sort of curse. Russell was a problem for the Raiders — a huge one. Regardless of how angry you are with him or how much you hate him, he wasn’t the only problem.
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