Sports

Russell taking control at camp

NAPA -- JaMarcus Russell was greeted at his first NFL training camp with some good-natured ribbing from veteran teammates acting surprised that he knew his way to the Oakland Raiders summer home in California's wine country.

It was a fair question considering Russell was thousands of miles away a year ago in a contract holdout as the Raiders conducted training camp. This year, Russell is front and center, the player being counted on to lead the Raiders back to their winning ways after five long years of losing.

"Everybody on the team gets paid off of what I do and the rest of the team does," Russell said. "I hate to say it but I'm accountable for a lot of the guys' families."

That's a lot of pressure on a player who has made one NFL start and appeared in just four games as a rookie. Coach Lane Kiffin made him the starter for this season as soon as the 2007 campaign ended, and he has spent the entire offseason preparing for it.

Being given the title of starter and earning the respect as the leader of the offense are different things. Russell said he noticed as the offseason went on that players began to follow his lead more and more.

"It is his team," receiver Javon Walker said. "He's a guy that knows what he can do, he knows the plays he can make and he knows where to lead this team. And guys like myself and along with the rest of the offense, we're going to follow, because it all starts off with him."

Russell has shown his brilliance at times in training camp, threading a pass perfectly between defenders or firing balls right on target while moving out of the pocket. Kiffin is concerned with more mundane topics like getting the team to the line of scrimmage quickly, switching plays when necessary and knowing when to throw the ball away.

FAVRE A NO-SHOW -- Brett Favre didn't report to the Green Bay camp, a team spokesman confirmed, temporarily easing tensions in his ongoing standoff with the team. Favre told si.com that Packers general manager Ted Thompson asked the quarterback for "a couple of days" to resolve the situation. "I agreed to do that," Favre told the site. "I don't want to be a distraction to the Packers, and I hope in the next few days we can come to an agreement that would allow me to continue playing football." That agreement, presumably, would be a trade, where the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have emerged as two potential trade partners for the Packers. Favre told si.com that he would consider a trade to any team. Also Sunday, the Packers came to an agreement with quarterback Brian Brohm, a second-round pick out of Louisville.

WEIGHTY ISSUE -- Nose tackle Casey Hampton was placed on the physically unable to perform list after reporting to camp overweight and failing to complete Pittsburgh's annual run test. Hampton, listed at 325 pounds but apparently much heavier, lagged 30 yards behind defensive end Brett Keisel during one of eight 100-yard sprints. Hampton completed only five. In 2003, when a similarly out-of-shape Hampton couldn't complete several of the 14 40-yard sprints the Steelers ran when Bill Cowher was coach, Kendrell Bell jumped in and ran two sprints for him. Hampton recovered to make the final run that summer. Hampton won't be allowed to practice in this camp until he drops weight, and coach Mike Tomlin suggested that will take more than a few days.

CHAD IN CAMP -- Receiver Chad Johnson had nothing to say when he reported for camp, ending Cincinnati's offseason drama with a pillow under his arm and a leave-me-alone look on his face. By showing up on time and without complaint, the Pro Bowl receiver brought his teammates some relief from his failed attempts to get traded.

QUICK HITTERS -- Defensive tackle DeMario Pressley (right foot fracture) was placed on injured reserve by New Orleans, forcing the fifth-round draft pick to miss his rookie season. ... Returner Devin Hester has signed a new four-year deal with Chicago.

  Comments