JaMarcus Russell is shadow of his former self – in more ways than one.
Gone are the winning days of LSU and the pomp and circumstance which comes with being a No. 1 overall selection in the NFL entry draft. The reality is, now, he’s just trying to find a job – somewhere, anywhere at this point. Also gone are 50 pounds off his frame, which certainly contributed to his career’s tailspin.
Standing 6-foot-6, Russell is now reported down to 265 pounds and that has NFL and CFL teams kicking his tires. If Russell has finally grown up and sticks with his fitness program, there’s no doubt he’ll find work. After playing three seasons with the Oakland Raiders he was released in 2010, but he’s still just 27 and his size and arm strength alone make him worth a look.
The big question is which team will bite first. A recent NFL Network report suggests “more than one” NFL team has significant interest, but none of those teams have stepped forward yet and if that’s how it stays, the CFL could be a real option in the next month or so. Russell could be a dangerous weapon in the CFL game and the NFL Network report indicates the 2007 Sugar Bowl MVP is “more than open to going to the (Canadian Football League).”
Still, the talk of Russell heading north of the border is probably premature at this point. Even at his worst, Russell wasn’t all that bad in those three seasons with the Raiders. While his 52.1 career completion percentage certainly needs work and the seven wins compared to 18 losses are pretty ugly, we have to remember how terrible that team was. And 18 touchdowns to 23 interceptions isn’t awful for a young player either.
My best guess is some NFL team will take a flier on him and bring him to training camp. From there you can evaluate how he picks up systems, evaluate his fitness, and get a good read on whether this whole experience has humbled him. That last bit is very important. If he hasn’t matured and isn’t completely committed to getting back in the game, he’s a lost cause. Then again, if he is, he could turn into one of the best NFL comeback stories we’ve ever seen.