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Russell, Raiders remain at odds

August 31, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

The days tick by. The NFL regular season draws closer. And still the Oakland Raiders have yet to sign No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell.

"It's horrible," Bernice Russell, the quarterback's grandmother, said Thursday of the waiting. "I want it to be over. I've watched my grandson go through all of this, and I don't know why he has to."

The negotiations have been sporadic, with the sticking point being how much unrecoverable bonus money the Raiders are willing to commit to the former Louisiana State star. The team has offered a deal that includes $31 million in bonuses -- almost $5 million more than last year's No. 1 pick Mario Williams received. The haggling is over the so-called skill-and-injury clause that protects guaranteed money under any scenario that leads to a player's release, such as injury, death, or simply poor performance.

If the Raiders and Russell were unable to come to terms, he could ultimately sit out the season and re-enter the 2008 draft to be selected by another team. That's an unlikely scenario but not impossible. The Raiders could not trade Russell's rights, even if they wanted to, until the league year has ended, which is at the beginning of March.

Russell attended all three of Oakland's mini-camps but, because he wasn't under contract, was not allowed to report to training camp. In his absence, the Raiders signed veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who is competing for the starting job with Josh McCown.

Last week, Russell's agents, Ethan Lock and Eric Metz, met in Los Angeles with Raiders representatives, but the sides failed to reach an agreement.

Russell has been splitting time between Atlanta and his hometown of Mobile, Ala. He has spent part of his time working out with the football team at Mobile's Williamson High, his alma mater.

"It's been very positive for the kids," Williamson Coach Bobby Parrish said. "If he's frustrated he's not showing it, because he's been very positive."

Parrish said Russell last worked out with the team at the beginning of this week "and then he was going to Atlanta to run some hills. He was looking good."

Bernice Russell, who calls the 6-foot-6, 255-pound JaMarcus her "giant of a baby," said her grandson is "very encouraged" that a deal will be done soon. She said she still planned to watch the Raiders, although she has yet to sign up for a satellite TV package that would allow her to see every game.

"I'd be excited if he was just on the sidelines swinging that rag around his head, waving that white rag like a helicopter," she said.

As for now?

"I'm on the outside looking in," she said. "I hear bits and pieces. I'm just praying."

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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