Russell shows up as Raiders open minicamp
AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – The questions about JaMarcus Russell’s immediate future in Oakland were answered Friday when he took the field for a minicamp with newly acquired Jason Campbell and the rest of his Raiders teammates.
Still unclear is the long-term future for the former No. 1 overall pick.
The team acquired Campbell in a trade with Washington last weekend. There were reports that Russell could be cut before training camp or held out of the workouts to avoid an injury.
But Russell was out there working with Campbell, Charlie Frye and Kyle Boller as the Raiders had their first formal on-field workout of the offseason.
“My thing is to keep coming out to work until they tell me not too,” Russell said. “I’m going to keep coming out to compete for the job and work my tail off.”
There were few visible signs from practice about who the leading contender for the starting quarterback job is this season. Bruce Gradkowski, who replaced Russell midway through last season, watched in a sling Friday after recent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle.
Coach Tom Cable reiterated that it’s a five-man competition at quarterback. When the team did its first 11-on-11 drills, it was Frye who took the first snaps, followed by Russell, Campbell and Boller.
“Means nothing,” Cable said. “Don’t look anything into that. If you do, you’re wasting ink. There’s nothing to that right now.”
Russell looked sharper than he did at this time a year ago, when most of his throws seemed to find the ground instead of a receiver. He made some crisp passes, including a pretty out route to Louis Murphy and made few visible mistakes.
Despite reports that he had reached 300 pounds, Russell looked in decent shape although the Raiders would not say what he weighed.
“He’s been here in the offseason, he’s worked,” Cable said. “The kid’s working his tail off. Let’s leave it at that.”
In Russell’s four-minute interview with the media, team employee Eddie Anderson cut off questions four separate times when Russell was asked whether Cable called him after the trade, whether he could be the starting quarterback when next season begins, whether he would restructure his contract and what his ideal weight was.
Russell did manage to answer that he hadn’t restructured the contract that has paid him more than $36 million already. Russell is guaranteed $3 million more and will have a salary of $9.45 million if he makes the team this season.
Campbell is owed $3.14 million this season and signed a $4.5 million extension for 2011 with the Raiders after the deal. That would make Russell a potentially very high-paid backup, leading to the speculation that he would not be on the team when the season starts.
“I know he’s there right now … I expect him to be there tomorrow,” said Cable, who wouldn’t commit to Russell for the long term.
Russell was fined for being overweight when he showed up at training camp last season. He then put together one of the worst seasons in recent memory for an NFL quarterback. He completed 48.8 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 50.0 passer rating that was the lowest in 11 years. He was benched midway through the season.
Campbell started 52 games for Washington since being a first-round pick in 2005. He has thrown for 55 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and has a passer rating of 82.3 in his career.
He is coming off his best season, completing 64.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 86.4. But the Redskins went 4-12 last season and acquired Donovan McNabb earlier this offseason.
Campbell told the NFL Network after the trade that he believed he was acquired to be the starter, but kept to the company line Friday.
“I’m just here to work. Just here to work, get better every day,” Campbell said. “I’ll let coach Cable make that decision and Mr. Al Davis. My job is to come out here every day and compete, keep working on things and try to improve the offense.”
Russell, who grew up in Alabama, first met Campbell when he was a junior in high school visiting Auburn. Russell said he looks forward to picking Campbell’s brain for some pointers from the veteran and that the two have a good relationship.
“We’re teammates,” he said. “We’re not fighting against each other. We’re out here to compete and get better for the organization.”