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JaMarcus Russell said he was surprised coach Tom Cable benched him four games ago. He promised a "totally different JaMarcus" upon his return. (Dan Honda/Staff)

JaMarcus Russell said he was surprised coach Tom Cable benched him four games ago and called it embarrassing and unwarranted. He promised a "totally different JaMarcus" upon his return.

Russell spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since Nov. 15, the day he was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski late in the third quarter in a 16-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

"It's not the end of the world," Russell said of his situation. "There's better days to come. Just move on from it."

The Raiders are 2-1 with Gradkowski as the starter and Russell waiting for another opportunity to validate Oakland's selection of him with the first pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

Cable has made it clear Gradkowski will start for the rest of the season because, in the coach's words, he gives the Raiders the best chance to win.

Russell said the benching surprised him.

"At first, it was very embarrassing to get pulled out," he said. "I think that would be for anybody."

Asked if he deserved the demotion, Russell said: "I wouldn't say that. ... But I guess coach wanted to go in a different direction."

After the season, the Raiders will be forced to decide whether to re-sign Gradkowski, draft another quarterback or target a signal-caller in free agency. Gradkowski is playing out a one-year contract that pays him $535,000.

As for Russell, he is due a base salary of $9.45 million next season. Russell, 24, said he isn't interested in restructuring his contract.

"Oh, no," Russell said when asked if he would consider reworking the six-year deal he signed his rookie season. "That's over and done with. I don't even consider that as a part of it."

Russell said he considers himself the Raiders quarterback of the future, though he is supportive of Gradkowski for the time being.

The Raiders never imagined they would be at a crossroads with Russell only three years into his NFL career. But Russell's development has been slower than expected.

"He's got to understand the responsibility that comes with that position," Cable said at the time of Russell's benching. "You can't go out time and time again and consistently be that inaccurate, not have command like you need to in this league. That's a very critical position in the National Football League."

Russell has completed 46.8 percent of his passes and has a 47.7 passer rating this season, both league-worsts. Gradkowski has a 54.5 completion percentage and an 80.2 passer rating.

Russell remains confident in his ability to succeed as an NFL quarterback. He said any questions about his weight and work ethic are unfounded. It all comes down to playing better.

Doing so entails his teammates doing their share, Russell said.

"It's kind of hard because there was times where you try to get guys a chance to make plays, and at the early part of the year, it wasn't happening," Russell said. "So, the quarterback job, I say, he looks for more help around from everybody because he can't do it himself."

Russell started Oakland's first nine games this season. Cable pulled him in the first half against the New York Jets on Oct. 25, then for good against the Chiefs two games later.

It's worth noting Russell played in games in which rookies started at both wide receiver spots. Russell also was on the field while left guard Robert Gallery, running back Darren McFadden and No. 1 receiver Chaz Schilens missed significant playing time.

Gradkowski has had all those players at his disposal during his three starts, though Gallery was hurt against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.

"Guys were making plays for him," Russell said of Gradkowski's 308-yard, three-touchdown performance in the 27-24 win at Pittsburgh. "That's what a quarterback needs, his surrounding players."

Cable said he is impressed by the way Russell is handling his demotion.

"He's doing the right things," Cable said. "He's working. He's doing what you should be, preparing himself. But I absolutely feel any competitor or athlete at this level wants the opportunity to go back in there."

INSIDE
  • Robert Gallery will miss the remainder of the season with a lower back strain. Page 2