JAMARCUS RUSSELL is right, it's "not the end of the world" that his first two passes of a Raiders' red-zone drill got intercepted Wednesday by an overjoyed 49ers defense.
It's actually the beginning of a new world.
The Raiders are finally taking off the restrictor plate and letting Russell's supercharged arm do what it got drafted for No. 1 overall in 2007.
Russell needed a reality check from the 49ers. His development is the driving force of this coming Raiders season. Tutorial sessions aren't always a cool breeze. Wednesday's was a Category 5 hurricane.
He must learn how to "cut it loose" better near an opponent's goal line.
He must learn to inspire his sullen teammates when facing adversity.
He must learn the nuances of being an NFL starting quarterback.
Or else the Raiders are in for a world of trouble.
It's been a troubling week. Monday: Coach Tom Cable is accused of breaking the jaw of a low-level defensive assistant. Tuesday: No. 1 wide receiver Chaz Schilens breaks a foot (even worse, it's his own foot). Wednesday: The franchise quarterback stinks against the giggling cross-Bay rivals in a manic morning scrimmage.
Of those three pieces of bad news, Russell's woes are most relevant to the Raiders' future. He represents this franchise's state: young and promising but also raw and in need of help.
Getting intercepted served as a distasteful end result of
He isn't getting millions to constantly check down to running backs and dink passes to the tight end. He is the starting point of Al Davis' once-vaunted vertical attack. As for those passes finding the targeted end point, it's a work in progress, especially as the Raiders search for suitable wide receivers.
"Since he got here, he's really been held back," Cable said. "So it's my responsibility to see if we can open that up a little bit."
Said Russell: "(The 49ers) made some plays, and Coach emphasized today to get up fast, and cut it loose, and try to give guys a chance to go up and make some catches, and it kinda backfired a little bit."
A little bit here, a little bit there and it adds up to a lot of lessons for him.
If this happens again Saturday night when the 49ers and Raiders reunite in an exhibition game at Candlestick, that's a bad sign. If it happens again in a month against an AFC West rival in the regular season, that's unacceptable.
But these are growing pains Russell and the Raiders will endure until he's beyond this infancy stage.
This will be Russell's second season as a full-time starter, and it's important to gauge whether he's heading in the right direction. Hence, it's time to ratchet up his learning experience, for better or worse.
He had a nice exhibition debut against the Dallas Cowboys last week. He finished last season strong. He won't be derailed by one ugly practice against the 49ers.
"Hell, you play football, things happen," Russell said. "It ain't like it's the end of the world. If it is, you show me. But other than that, just grow from it and go to the next play."
You're outraged by his laid-back nature, aren't you? Sorry, that's who he is. Predictably, Cable said Russell reacted in "even keel" fashion after Wednesday's interceptions.
Cable took the blame, not for any coach-on-coach battle, mind you, but for turning Russell loose. (Russell also had a tipped pass intercepted in an earlier drill, and Bruce Gradkowski had two passes intercepted in the red-zone drill.)
Russell remains a fascinating project, both on and off the field.
He is sporting a tightly cropped Mohawk. His eyes are often hidden by sunglasses, whether it's 11:30 a.m. (see: media session after Wednesday's practice) or 11:30 p.m. (see: signing autographs in the players' parking lot after Thursday night's game).
His weight is concerning, as it will be throughout his NFL career because of his big frame.
His body language still needs work if he's to serve as a true leader. He was the only player who took off his jersey, shoulder pads and helmet after Wednesday's morning session and handed them to an equipment-staff minion. That was more disturbing than seeing a few passes intercepted in training camp.
He will learn. He must learn.
Contact Cam Inman at firstname.lastname@example.org.