You know that "new and improved" Raidersquarterback JaMarcus Russell we're hearing about this summer? The guy who looks so much better in the red zone, the guy who's trying to stress to his teammates the value of these off-season practices by holding additional off-season workouts with his receiving corps? He skipped the last day of off-season practice without explanation.
According to a report on in the National Football Post, Russell concluded the Raiders' final day of Organized Team Activities (OTA's) in the tradition of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford -- by being absent with zero explanation.
"After he issued a call to his teammates to practice and finish the OTA days strong, he then disappeared and was AWOL on the last day," writes the Posts's Michael Lombardi. "Russell must learn that talent alone is not going to make him successful. Dedication to becoming a better player is what he needs."
It should be noted that Russell's absence from the final OTA practice is not corroborated by any other sources. The two most Raider-update-obsessed sources on the web, The Examiner's Patrick Patterson's Raider Examiner page and the Chronicle's David White's Twitter page, don't note Russell's OTA absence.
But Michael Lombardi is no slouch, and probably has as good a set of sources on the Raiders as any working reporter. Lombardi was a personnel executive with the Raiders for eight years, and correctly called the surprise Darrius Heyward-Bey draft pick.
Attendance at these things is not mandatory, so Russell did not violate any team rules. Nnamdi wasn't there either, and Jeff Garcia had skipped the previous week's OTA's. And Russell may still come out and throw for 300 yards against San Diego on Sept. 14 after having missed some June OTA. If so, then I'm going to demand that Russell not participate in any OTA's next summer.
But Russell is supposed to be showing off his newly-enhanced leadership skills this off-season, and skipping practices isn't going to help that. With stories like this continuing to pop up, Russell's work ethic and dedication will continue to be questioned.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who wishes he had an Argentine mistress to blame his unexcused absences upon.