ALAMEDA — Nine practices into his professional career JaMarcus Russell is starting to feel pretty good. There is still the occasional fumbled snap and the occasional throw to an invisible receiver, but remember, this is just the beginning.

And it isn't fazing the Oakland Raiders' No.1 draft pick, the former pride of the LSU backfield, the wunderkind quarterback of tomorrow.

"It was a good start," Russell summed up after Sunday morning's last workout. "I mean, I thought it was going to be like freshman year all over again, not knowing nothin'. So I picked up pretty good."

He could be picking up more in the weeks to come were it not for the NFL's rule involving rookies. They are allowed one weekend of mandatory class but no more. It is a concession to the need for the student-athletes to get back to their classes.

Except in Russell's case — he's not even enrolled in any classes at the moment. So the truth is, the kid who needs lots of football schooling, is barred until the end of the current school term for no plausible reason.

"I'll keep in touch with coach on the phone, keeping everything straight with my plays so I'll be up to par when I get back," Russell said.

He can't stick around full time until his class graduates, but he will be back and forth for OTAs. The Raiders get together again on May 15 for the next "OTA" (organized team activity). Late June and early July are earmarked for vacations for staff and players. Training camp in Napa kicks off July 27.

Needless to say, Raiders coach Lane Kiffin would love to have Russell working full time until then.

"We're pleased where he's at, and as soon as we can get him back here, we've got a lot of work to do with him," Kiffin said.

Nevertheless, the coach agrees with the NFL's college lockout policy.

"I think that for the people that are (still in school), if you did it the other way they'd feel they were losing (ground on making a team). There are a lot of guys on this team that are just fighting their way to try to make the team. They'd feel if ... they're going to school, they're losing out on a chance."

As Russell noted, there is still "more to go" before he is ready — chiefly getting accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of his receivers so that there aren't passes going to empty places on the field.

"The more you practice, the better you can be with each and every guy out there," he said. "Right now I still have to find out the special thing that they do."

Still to come is achieving a status of leadership that goes with the position he plays. He was a leader at LSU. If he is to be a factor as a rookie, how and when does he start asserting himself on a team of veterans?

"Right now I'm just building a relationship with the guys," Russell said. "Right now, they seem to be the leaders for me. At a point in time, I'll get to that."

SETTING THE STANDARD: Kiffin said he was pleased with the five practices and most satisfied with having accomplished what he had set as his goal for the three-day camp.

That goal: "Practice tempo," Kiffin said. "Guys understanding how to come out here and practice at this speed, especially with a lot of college guys coming in ... understanding how to stay up. We're looking after safety as well. I think we made a lot of strides there."

According to Kiffin, the pace was good to begin with and was even better during Sunday's last practice.

CLOSING WITH A KICK: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski wasn't called on for many field goal attempts or kickoffs during the camp. Kiffin waited until the end to put the pressure on him.

"We had an hourlong meeting (scheduled) before they take off," Kiffin said. "We put Janikowski on a 48-yard field goal. If he made it, they got the meetings off. If he missed, they had meetings."

He made it amidst thunderous cheers.