Is he in shape? Is he really taking this off-season serious?
Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell is the hot topic right now, especially since reports about his off-season conditioning have surfaced and Comcast SportsNet’s Kate Longworth chased down the elusive passer after Tuesday’s work out session.
Willie Brown boasted about Russell saying, “It’s quite a bit of weight that he’s lost … I don’t want to pin it down and say how much he lost but it will be a significant difference when you see him compared to last year.
“The most important thing is he’s getting in shape. Not only losing weight, but getting in shape. He’s watching his diet, he has special meals brought in that he’s eating, and we have one of the Raiders, a former player there with him to monitor him and make sure things are going fine. The weight thing, he’ll get it down. He’ll get it down.”
Just because Russell has taken the first steps to back respectability and to possibly salvaging a career does not mean that he’s on his way to greatness or that he can still be trusted.
Russell is far from being a capable NFL starter.
Losing weight will help out his mobility. Shedding those excessive pounds will help in trying to instill trust in a fan-base and more importantly, a squad that has little hope in the lackadaisical signal caller.
But that does not change the fact that he is still shouldering a major burden: being the number one overall pick, getting paid a brinks truck full of dollars and being the savior of a bottom feeding organization.
And his new work-out regimen does not mean that he will be accurate. Nor does it make him trustworthy in handling a complex NFL playbook and being able to integrate that on the field on Sundays.
Russell has a long way to go.
But because he is making these first steps, that will be enough to titillate Al Davis and give the former LSU product the benefit of the doubt.
This will likely keep Bruce Gradkowski at the bottom of the hill, trying to go against a passer that will have the owner’s side when they face each other in the coming months for starting supremacy. And you know how that will end, unless Russell is injured, just tanks it completely or the team revolts publicly, Gradkowski may never see a fair shake in Oakland.
It may take Russell bombing early in 2010 and a atrocious start to the campaign before we ever see the quarterback that stated last week, “Yeah, I think that’s the way it always has to go [open competition for the job]. I believe that in any business that you are on, any field of work, competition just makes you better and the best person should be out there for the job,” on the field.
Gradkowski continued, “I think that’s the way it should take place. That’s the way it will take place and I’m looking forward to it. I’m just excited for getting this opportunity and like I’ve said, competition makes you better and there’s going to be competition everywhere. It’s just the nature of the game. So I’m looking forward to it this year and I’ll love to get it from the start and see what we can do with it.”
He may not see that action early, but that’s because Russell is saying and doing all the right things now.
There’s no guarantee that Russell will continue this. And there is no reason to think that all the ills that he has brought on to the football team and his organization will cease.
So I wouldn’t be too giddy just yet about what Russell has done.
What he will do at the start of the summer and in the fall will be far more important, even though he may be finally realizing that major changes were needed for him to become a professional.