Deposed starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since being pulled in the third quarter of the Kansas City game on Nov. 15. Among the former No. 1 overall pick's "revelations," he was embarrassed about being benched; he still sees himself as the team's quarterback of the future; and he would not restructure his contract, ala the 49ers'Alex Smith, to make a return to Oakland more financially feasible.
Following, then, the transcript of his chat with reporters in the Raiders' locker room on Thursday.
Q: How's it going?
A: Going pretty good, as you could see. We're doing a lot better on the field. I guess the change was (done) in the correct way. But something to learn from, you know what I mean? When it first happened, wasn't too happy with it. But the thing is, I look at it, we're both on the same team, playing under the same roof. So the best thing to me is to be a great team player, great teammate, and the same if I was in there. He'd be doing the same. That's pretty much my outlook on it.
Q: What was the message you got from this--what areas would the coach like to see improved?
A: In every way. You can always improve yourself. Any way, shape, form or fashion, before you point the finger. As long as you're taking care of business at home, then everything else can be taking place. Right now, I've learned from it. Because I've done it before. Not from starter to the bench thing, but just about coming into college. I red-shirted my freshman year, so I've kind of been in a similar situation. Best thing to learn from is to take it in stride and just keep moving. We all have road bumps in our life and this just happens to be one bump.
Q: Do you think it was deserved?
A: I wouldn't say that. You know, any guy that's competitive, which we want to be out there, and I'd say that about myself. But I guess coach wanted to go in a different direction.
Q: Do you look at guys like Alex Smith and Vince Young as paths to follow?
A: Uh, you can. I'm pretty sure that those things just ain't happening. It was something to that, you look like now, guys are making plays. That's the thing we were lacking. We wasn't making plays. Now, a few plays have been made.
Q: Do you consider yourself the QB of the future?
A: No doubt. That hasn't changed in my mind at all.
Q: Would you be open to compete for starting job next year?
A: I will work my butt off to be that guy.
Q: But if they ask you to rework your deal?
A: Oh, no. That's over and done with. I don't even consider that as a part of it.
Q: Talked to Al?
A: Oh, yeah. We talk. Both guys have good spirits about it. It's just something right now that we're just going through. I don't see the big deal about it. He's my teammate. You all acting like I'm going against somebody else. It's a big deal, but it's really not.
Q: Do you expect to get more time this season?
A: The way things are going right now he's doing a good job out there. I always prepare like I'm that guy. If my number is called, then I'll be ready.
Q: What is Bruce doing well?
A: Now it's just all around. Guys are just making plays around him. In the Dallas game, after you go out and win in Cincinnati, there wasn't plays really made the whole game, you know what I mean? Going into Pittsburgh, guys were making plays for him. That's what a quarterback needs, his surrounding players. That's what was going on.
Q: Will you be a better QB when you do get your chance?
A: You can learn a lot from this so yes, I do think so.
Q: You getting a lot of support from family, friends, etc.?
A: Oh yeah. It's not the end of the world. There's better days to come. Just move on from it. I learned from the first game and now I can just be a team player and show my support I have, It's not like I'm going against somebody else. We're teammates. Who wouldn't want to be a starting quarterback of an NFL team. Everybody don't get the chance or opportunity to play in the NFL or a football game. Why wouldn't I want that chance?
Q: Do you expect an open competition next year?
A: Uh, I'm not sure. If that's the road they want to take, then, hey, we have to go out and fight our butts off to be that guy.
Q: Anything you want to accomplish in the offseason? Work hard?
A: Work hard, that's all the time. You got to do that on your own. That's going to be part of the workout plan anyway.
Q: Are your weight and work ethic not an issue, it's just the on-field performance?
A: Yeah, that's about it.
Q: How would you grade yourself this season?
A: Uh, 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. So, the quarterback job, I say he looks for more help around from everybody because he can't do it himself. It wasn't so well but at times it was. When we look at film, it don't be as bad as it seems on the field always.
Q: How hard to play without Chaz Schilens, Darren McFadden, Robert Gallery?
A: Pretty hard but you can't really base it upon that because you put guys in knowing that they going to go out there and they'll play the same. So, I wouldn't really put that on the table.
Q: Were you surprised when you heard the news that you weren't starting anymore?
A: I really was. I really was. At first, it was very embarrassing to get pulled out. I think that would be for anybody. I kind of took it, sat down and thought about it, just prayed about the situation, and God, he don't make no mistakes. So, kind of look at it like that.
Q: What's it like going through this for the first time, difficult?
A: It was. It really was. Like I said, it's the first time for me and that's why I say, it's not the end of the world. It's my third year, and I have a lot more football to play.
Q: What are people going to see when you hit the field again?
A: A totally different JaMarcus. People going to have their opinion, and I really don't pay too much attention to that. I worry about JaMarcus and JaMarcus only.
Q: How will you be different?
A: Time will tell. Time will tell. Time will really tell.