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JaMarcus Russell's 12 steps to NFL return

Dear JaMarcus,

I know it's been a rough week for you.

I assume you've read some of the brutal commentary out there and caught a bit of the TV coverage since you were released by the Raiders. I know it hurts to be labeled the NFL's biggest "bust" of all-time by some while drawing comparisons to Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith. I'm sure it stinks having to watch clips of yourself getting sacked and being intercepted on a loop, too.

But I'm here for you, man.

Because I remember you from way back when. I remember when you, as a sophomore at LSU, dazzled me on a Saturday night in September of '05. This was mere weeks after Hurricane Katrina rocked your team and school to its very core. On that night, with your Tigers down 31-28 to Arizona State in the final minute of a brutal out-of-conference road game that was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge, you hit Early Doucet for a 39-yard touchdown, giving your team an emotional 35-31 win. The pass was a thing of beauty; your leadership and poise under pressure was masterful.

As a junior, you amazed me week after week. After a rough start on the road in Knoxville, you led a Joe Montana-style 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the final minute of the game, connecting with Doucet for a game-winning TD pass with just 8 seconds left. Then there was this mind-blowing display of athleticism versus Ole Miss. You blew me away in the Sugar Bowl a few months later, accounting for 350 yards of offense and three touchdowns in a 41-14 blowout of Brady Quinn and Notre Dame.

The cannon arm. The fearless leadership. The confidence in the huddle. I've seen all of these things from you.

So, JaMarcus, I'm not going to beat up on you when you're down. I'm not going to linger on the fact you threw just one touchdown pass in your last 31 NFL quarters or that you tossed 22 more picks than TD passes in your first three years in the NFL.

Instead, I'm going to lift you up. Here's a twelve-step program to get you back in the NFL.

1. Get in the gym: There's no reason an athlete of your caliber should have balding 50-year-old sportswriters calling you out-of-shape. Get angry. Get mad. Get jacked. Call up Jay Glazer and link up with him and Randy Couture and do the whole MMA training thing in Vegas. It worked for Jared Allen and Patrick Willis. I'm certain it will work for you. Call that Jillian Michaels lady from "The Biggest Loser" and get on a weight management regiment.

There's nothing cool about being a 300-pound quarterback -- especially when you're unemployed because of it. Surround yourself with a trusted trainer and/or nutritionist and make conditioning your top priority. That arm strength isn't going anywhere. But unless you get your weight in check, neither are you.

2. Go The Tebow route: When NFL Draft analysts were saying Tim Tebow would be a third-round pick and the sports media world went bonkers after a subpar Senior Bowl showing, the Florida quarterback went out and hired some of the top QB coaches in the country. He made improvement his sole focus for the next three months.

I'm sure you've got some dough left, JaMarcus. Reach out to Jon Gruden. Reach out to Brian Billick. Reach out to Steve Mariucci. They're three of the top quarterback gurus in the world. See if they're willing to work with you. Commit yourself to improving, learn the game from the very best and become their pet project. Do whatever they tell you. Listen to whatever they're preaching.

3. If not the big guns, then ... : So Gruden, Billick, and Mariucci might not be looking for pet projects. They're all on TV and doing quite fine without you. There are some other guys out there -- perhaps not as big of names -- that would be willing to work with you. Tom Martinez is a former junior college coach who has worked with Tom Brady throughout his career. Marc Trestman is the head coach of the Montreal Allouettes and a noted quarterback guru. There's Zeke Bratkowski, too. The former Packers QB has coached for 26 years and counsels young passers all the time.

Reach out to one of these guys and let them bring you back to relevance. Let them bring you back from the brink.

4. Own the Arena League: No, don't purchase it. "Own it", as in dominate it. Think the Arena League is below you and a barren wasteland of undersized undrafted NFL free agents? Wake the heck up, man. You're wrong. Kurt Warner attributes a lot of his timing, accuracy, and decision-making skills to his time spent indoors. The league's 2010 season just began and you'd be a star attraction. Swallow your pride, use the carpet as a showcase of your skills and improve them along the way.

5. Go North: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats currently own your CFL rights. If no NFL team comes along and signs you by early June and you opt to avoid the Arena League, I wouldn't scoff at a trip to Canada. The 2010 season starts in June. Doug Flutie, Joe Kapp, Warren Moon and Jeff Garcia all honed their skills in the CFL. You'd be fortunate to someday be considered worthy enough to join that list.

6. Show some emotion: When you threw for touchdowns, you rarely showed emotion. When you threw interceptions, you rarely showed emotion. When the Raiders went and traded for Jason Campbell last month, you seemed indifferent. I watched you in college. You wore your heart on your sleeve. You were a fearless leader. I'd hate to ever suggest taking a cue from your former division rivals, but no one ever questions whether Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers care about football.

7. Learn and respect the history of the game: Take a trip down to Mount Laurel, NJ, knock on Steve Sabol's door at NFL Films, and ask him to open up the library. Drown yourself in Johnny Unitas footage, take notes on fellow XL-sized quarterbacks Sonny Jurgensen and Daunte Culpepper and become an expert on the history of the game.

One of the knocks on you is that you just don't care to be an NFL quarterback; that you treated being the starting QB of the Raiders like a job, not your passion. Dig into the NFL's rich and storied history. Fall in love with the game.

8. Reach out to fellow draft busts: Don't want to be the next Ryan Leaf or Todd Marinovich? Then reach out to them. Both players have had their issues both on and off the field. I'm certain both would sit and talk to you. Listen to their stories and to their regrets so you can learn from their mistakes, too.

9. Go home: Take a trip back to Mobile, Ala., where you were (and still are) considered a king and find out who was the guy they love before you were handed $39 million. While the rest of the world may be piling on you, you're still a legend down in Mobile. Back in January, you were the Grand Marshall of the city's Mardi Gras parade. Your high school coach Bobby Parrish told reporters, "I hear people say he doesn't love the game of football, but he did here and he did at LSU. He's been a winner everywhere he's been."

This may sound a bit sappy, but go home, take a few snaps at the Williamson High School field and rediscover what you loved about the sport way back when. You know, before you were paid millions to play it.

10. Don't lose faith: You're not the first player to struggle out in Oakland and won't be the last. The Raiders are not exactly the league's most stable franchise. An NFL-record seven consecutive seasons of six wins or less? That's not all on you, my friend. Randy Moss was a disaster in Oakland, Aaron Brooks was an afterthought and who even remembers that Javon Walker once wore the silver and black?

You'll get another chance in this league. And when you do, have confidence in yourself. There's a reason you were taken before Joe Thomas, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson in 2007. The Raiders aren't fully to blame for your struggles as a pro. But neither are you.

11. Hit up Starbucks: Word out of Oakland is that you would fall asleep during team meetings. That's unacceptable, dude ... especially for a starting quarterback. Come to work ready to lead and ready to play. If you need to hit up Starbucks before work, there's no shame in that. Just get the Grande Skim Latte; not the Venti Caramel Macchiato.

12. Prove Everyone Wrong: Make a list. Take note of every reporter, ESPN talking head and NFL personnel man who wrote you off after you got cut. Keep it posted on a bedroom mirror, Rocky IV style. Then get to work.

You're welcome, JaMarcus.

Sincerely,

Peter