JaMarcus Russell speaks -- Is he misunderstood?

October 25, 2011, 5:43 pm
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Since the Oakland Raiders released JaMarcus Russell in May 2010 he has slipped into obscurity.

Until now.

Sports Illustrated recently caught up with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft in his hometown of Mobile, Ala.

Here's what he had to say on the following issues...

On reports that he fell asleep during team meetings:
"In the NFL, my first year, I had to be there at 6:30 before practice and be on the treadmill for an hour. 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."

Russell reveals that during his time in Oakland, 11 family members or friends died, including his uncle Ray Ray Russell:
"I went through so much no one knew about. Go to a funeral on Saturday, fly into the game on Sunday. Then I hear, 'He doesn't lead by example.' Really?"

On the lack of support from his coaches and teammates:
"Things weren't going right, and it felt like sometimes everything fell back on me. 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."

On coach Tom Cable:
"All of a sudden, he flipped the script. I stuck my neck out for him. 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... 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?... It just got where the game wasn't fun for me."

On his charity efforts -- Russell has given back so much to his hometown that he is often referred to as, 'Santa Claus.':
"If I do go broke," says Russell, who is unmarried and has no children," it's going to be from providing for my neighborhood and my family."

On why his charitable donations haven't been publicized:
"My business is my business. That's how I prefer it. I gotta look up to God. I don't gotta look out to no damn news cameras!"

In summation:
"I'll keep moving, man. But what if I don't make it back to the NFL? I'll be O.K. Being a competitor, I feel like I have unfinished business. Like 'It can't end like this.'"

For the complete article, check out the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated.