Does JaMarcus Russell Deserve a Second Chance?


One of the least frequently asked questions in the history of sports is receiving an outpour of answers, of all different varieties, opinions, vitriol and size. That question: does Jamarcus Russell deserve another chance in the NFL?

This isn’t the kind of question you can answer with a simple yes or no. The dynamics are never ending and all worth taking into consideration. For that reason and many more, no matter who you ask about the former first overall pick’s comeback, you’re more than likely to receive a different answer from the last.

My take on the former LSU star and current punchline is that not only does he deserve a second chance, but quarterback needy teams should be lining up outside his agents office. Yes, you read that right.

To this point in his attempted comeback Russell has lost roughly 55 lbs, depending on which source you trust. He’s been working under the tutelage of former teammate Jeff Garcia at the TEST training facilities in Southern California and getting his arm close to where it used to be. His diet, attitude and physique have all taken a turn for the better and coupled with his absurd amount of talent this all bodes well for Russell.

That’s not why I’m convinced he deserves a second chance. I mean, these are all great things to hear and read, but still there’s nothing concrete - weight loss aside. Russell deserves a second chance because everyone does. It’s really as simple as that. This is the same league plagued by a fanbase that will find any way to justify Tim Tebow being a starting quarterback. It’s the same league that has let Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick back, after extended visits to prison. And most importantly, it’s the same damn league that saw Ryan Leaf get chances with three other teams after the Chargers gave up on him.

Jamarcus Russell may have been morbidly obese and a user of codeine, but he wasn’t a convict. He’s never been sent to prison, never killed dogs and never risked the safety of the general public by having a pistol go off in a nightclub.

What Russell is however is a human being. This seems as straightforward a presumption as you will likely ever read, but think about it for a second. Has there been any more dehumanized an athlete in all the world of sports? Everybody loves to bring up has non-existent desire, his bust status and the well documented weight issues; which is fair enough if you’re a Raiders fan. Does it ever get brought up with any regularity that he housed victims of Hurricane Katrina though? Do you ever hear about him losing his uncle and only father figure in the earliest part of his career? Of course not. To quote John F. Kennedy, we as a society are often guilty of “enjoying the comfort of opinion, without the discomfort of thought” and in no sports related case has this resonated with more truth than Jamarcus Russell’s.

If you don’t think Russell is taking this seriously, think again. He’s surrounded himself with the likes of Jeff Garcia, Marshall Faulk and many more quality people, all with the intent of getting him back in the NFL. Gone are the days of unwarranted entitlement. Russell not only wants to return as a backup, should he get another chance in the NFL, but he’s even willing to play in the CFL if he has to. Whatever the case, the man deserves a second chance and don’t bet against him getting one. Besides, who doesn’t like a good redemption story?

You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV


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