The National Football League is littered with second-chance success stories, and former Oakland Raiders quarterback and colossal draft bust JaMarcus Russell is now beginning the process of giving himself that opportunity.
Save the witty jokes and recycled punch lines. If Russell is serious about the comeback—and it appears as if he is—there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to conjure up at least a training-camp invite next August.
According to Kristen Dyer of Yahoo! Sports, Russell, who currently weighs 308 pounds, is "planning a comeback attempt" and "hopes to play in the league again."
Russell, on wanting his second chance:
The last few years, the things going through my life, football is my job and it is how it feeds my family. People would say [that] I didn’t love the game but that pisses me off. People don’t know the real you but I want people to know the real me and see what I can do. People are always saying that I’m a bust. I want show them I’m not. I’m committed to this now.
Russell's comeback will primarily be aided by Mike Clayton, a former LSU receiver who was drafted No. 15 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004. However, help is also coming from a bevy of football and training experts, including former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia, former NFL running back Marshall Faulk, Olympian Ato Boldon and Dr. Robert Price of Elite Minds.
Together, the group will attempt to focus and rededicate a player gifted enough at one time to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. If that group of individuals can't do it, Russell never had a shot in the first place.
That said, Russell has a number of hurdles to jump before he receives another shot at playing in the NFL.
While Russell has cut weight from 320 pounds last fall to 308 now, he still needs to shed another 40 or so to get to his former playing weight. It would seem unlikely that any NFL team would take a chance on him if his weight issues weren't firmly in control.
An NFL general manager would also need to be confident that Russell's past is just that. According to ESPN, Russell was charged with possessing codeine—a controlled substance—when officers found the drug during a 2010 sting at Russell's home.
His play on the field is also a big question mark. Over three seasons in Oakland, Russell completed just 52.1 percent of his passes for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He also lost 15 fumbles and his career passer rating sits at just 65.2.
The Raiders released Russell following the 2009 season. He hasn't played in the NFL since.
However, if Russell can get his weight under control and prove to GMs that his drug days are behind him, one could assume that at least one offensive mind in the NFL will look at a revitalized Russell as a chance to polish up a player once considered the diamond of a draft class.
At 6'6" and possessing a tight end's build, Russell has the size and arm strength to play the position in the NFL. It's the areas of quarterback play like accuracy and reading defenses and progressions that mostly doomed the start of Russell's professional career, although he played on a some very poor Raiders teams at the end of the 2000s.
But in order to fix those problems in an NFL setting, Russell must first get his body and mind right. While still in the infant stages of that recovery, it appears as if the former bust has surrounded himself with the right people to do just that.
Where there's a will there's a way, and Russell is lucky enough to be just 27 years old. He's also lucky that the NFL has a long history of giving physically talented players second chances.
As long as he's 100-percent committed to getting his life turned around, there will someday be an opportunity for Russell in the NFL.
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