Russell is a big topic at Combine

Published: February 24th, 2007
By NFL_Czar's Blog

Could the first draft pick in April really look like some oversized Eddie Murphy character? Yes, that's a shot at chubby LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who definitely didn't arrive at the NFL Combine as a lean machine. Russell may have even tipped the scales at 280 pounds in the biggest game of his life, throwing for a career-best 322 yards in the Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Russell, who even looks taller than his listed 6-feet-6, is undoubtedly a very large man, bigger than Daunte Culpepper, the former Minnesota quarterback. And he doesn't want to be compared to Culpepper and he definitely isn't worried about being too large. "I've always been big," he said.

The Oakland Raiders own the first pick and the consensus here is that Russell will be the choice of owner Al Davis. The Raiders need a quarterback. They finally dumped Aaron Brooks, who probably was a poor choice last season.

Russell's naysayers - and there are a few - say that the Sugar Bowl game was his best game by far and that he was an average performer in some critical SEC games. And they are worried about how much heavier Russell can get.

By comparison, Russell reminded some of Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf, who arrived here as an overweight slob. It's an interesting point because Leaf was matched up against Peyton Manning, who has proven to be one of the best quarterbacks of the last decade. And Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, although he didn't work out here, either, looked like a top-notch physical specimen.

It will be interesting to see how Russell and Quinn improve and fare as they go down the road to April 28.

Petrino on Vick

Bobby Petrino, the Falcons new head coach, said he will be calling the offensive plays this season, but that quarterback Michael Vick will have the opportunity to over-ride plays at the line of scrimmage, "to get us out of a bad play," Petrino said. "He's pretty excited about doing that and it will be a challenge for him."

Petrino dodged most of the negative Vick questions, saying that it takes all 11 guys on offense to make the passing game work and that Vick needed to simply be "more consistent with his footwork." He also didn't see him rushing for 1,000 yards again.

When asked about why he accepted the Atlanta job after talking extensively with the Raiders a year ago, Petrino said: "The location fits me better and my family and the I knew Rich McKay and what he's been able to do in personnel. After I met with owner Arthur Blank and saw his commitment toward winning a Super Bowl, I knew this was the right job for me and at the right time."

Tampering Jerry

New Giants GM Jerry Reese picked up that tagline when he revealed that "there is Willis McGahee talk out there" when he was being asked about a potential new running back to take Tiki Barber's spot on the Giants' roster. Yes, it's tampering to be discussing another team's player who is under contract at any time. You could blame it on first-day jitters for a new general manager. "We will investigate any such trade talks," Reese said, referring to McGahee.

Will Reese be fined? Who knows, but he is right in that there have been rumors of the Bills trading McGahee, who wants a new contract and has mentioned a holdout as a means to that end. McGahee is represented by Drew Rosenhaus.

Titans were warned

Tennessee's new general manager Mike Reinfeldt discussed the possibility of trading troubled cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones here, and I bet head coach Jeff Fisher regrets almost daily that they selected Jones with the sixth pick of the '06 draft. Granted, he's a more dynamic player than Antrel Rolle, the other cornerback considered by the Titans, but Jones is simply an undisciplined personality. How else do you explain the Las Vegas reports of him tossing money (from of bag containing $81,000) at strippers and the fact that Fisher had to suspend him for a game last season for spitting at a woman in a nightclub?

The young man has character issues.

Fans may howl at this story, but marketing man Mike Ornstein warned Fisher about Pacman prior to the draft. Orny called him irresponsible. According to the story, Pacman was in New York City and Fisher wanted him to fly to Nashville prior to the draft. Well, he skipped his first flight. He was having too much fun in NYC. Ornstein, who was trying to sign Pacman to a Reebok deal, was told to get Pacman on the next plane out of LaGuardia. Well, Ornstein went through security with Pacman and escorted him to the departure gate. He watched Pacman get onto the plane.

However, the next phone call from Fisher said it all. Pacman didn't arrive on his scheduled flight. Yes, he slipped back off the plane at LaGuardia when Ornstein turned his back. There was simply too much partying to do in Manhattan.

But we all know that there will be teams lining up to trade for Pacman. And the Titans may even get a low second-round pick for him regardless of character.

Center is second best?

The only sane explanation is that it must be the largesse of the salary cap, which has increased 38 percent in the last two seasons. But center Andre Gurode, who actually shared his position with Al Johnson in 2005, is now the second-highest paid player on the Cowboys.

Yes, this is great for Gurode, the kid who had his head mashed by Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth last season, but it exemplifies how out-of-whack some salaries are in the NFL. A $5 million average for Gurode? Does this mean Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo ten million?

Gurode's contract is an example that teams with a lot of salary-cap room will spend it in lavish fashion. Dallas paid out of fear that another team would if Gurode would have hit free agency.

Faulk not an issue

Reading between the lines from Rams coach Scott Linehan, he wants running back Marshall Faulk to stay retired. Faulk as been hinting at a comeback, but Linehan said he hasn't spoken to him to discuss his future. Last summer the Rams gave Faulk a $2 million walking-away check and believe his playing days are over.

Joe Thomas fine

Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas ran two great 40-yard times on Saturday, a 4.92 followed by a 4.96. Thomas has been declared to be the Lions' draft choice, the second overall player taken. Regardless, Thomas will be the first offensive lineman taken and he won't slip out of the top five of the draft.

This is supposed to be a quality year if a team is looking to draft a guard, and Allen Barbre of Missouri Southern State was timed in 4.84 and Gabe Hall of Texas Tech in 4.86 on Saturday. Justin Blalock of Texas and Manuel Ramirez of Texas Tech both bench-pressed 225 pounds 40 times each to tie for top honors.