This week’s Sports Illustrated catches up with JaMarcus Russell to find out how the 2007 first overall draft pick views his failed career, now that he’s out of football at age 26. Among the details: Russell feels some ill will toward former coach Tom Cable, thinks his teammates deserve as much blame as he does for the Raiders’ problems, and says the reason he had trouble staying awake in team meetings is that he has sleep apnea.
“In the NFL, my first year, I had to be there at 6:30 [a.m.] before practice and be on the treadmill for an hour,” Russell said. “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.”
The Raiders went 7-18 in the 25 games Russell started, and he says it upsets him that he’s always singled out as the reason the Raiders were losers during his three-year tenure with the club.
“Things weren’t going right, and it felt sometimes like everything fell back on me,” Russell said. “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.”
Russell also said his coach, Tom Cable, betrayed him by blaming him for the Raiders’ problems.
“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?”
If Russell thinks this kind of interview is going to rehabilitate his public image, he’s wrong. The best thing Russell could do now is own up to his failings as the Raiders’ quarterback. Or say nothing at all.