Ask Vic: Russell leaves Raiders in bind

Raider fans have waited a long time for a player like JaMarcus Russell to become a pivotal part of the team's poor offense. (But) we don't need another Randy Moss. Russell's greed is far overshadowing his potential skill in the NFL and fans are growing weary of him. Maybe he can wait for next year and see if he'll get his GAURANTEED $40 million. --Ljove

I can appreciate the frustration that you share with other Raider fans. The fact Russell has missed so much practice time as he negotiates a contract would figure to greatly reduce his chances of making any impact as a rookie, regardless of when he signs.

If it offers any encouragement, Josh McCown, the Raiders' likely starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, has been impressive throughout offseason workouts and training-camp practices.

Also, it's worth pointing out that the strength of Russell's game is his raw physical talent, beginning with an incredibly powerful arm. To some degree, Russell could get by on that and his tremendous instincts, but there is so much for him to learn and execute in practice before the Raiders or any team would be comfortable putting him on the field.

OK, so do you think Priest Holmes or Larry Johnson will start for the Chiefs, and who do you think would be better? I say Holmes! I've always said that. --P.T.

I'll say Johnson. As far apart as he and the Chiefs are over a new contract, I have a hard time believing he won't return to his No. 1 running back spot by the start of the season. Johnson needs to be paid and the Chiefs need him to play. If nothing else, that should offer a foundation for a deal of some sort to be struck.

Holmes' comeback attempt is admirable. He was a tremendously talented back and dynamic force for the Chiefs, but the operative word is "was." The eroding effects of age have greatly reduced his ability to be enough of an impact player to fill the considerable void created by Johnson's absence. Holmes already has missed practice time with head and neck issues.

I noticed your prediction for the Bears returning to the Super Bowl read as, "Only if Cedric Benson can provide the same support for Rex Grossman that he and Thomas Jones provided on the way to Super Bowl XLI." Although I thought the world of Thomas Jones, it appears as though you have ignored the defense, special teams, O-line, receivers, and pretty much everybody but Cedric Benson. If you are not choosing the Bears to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, who are you predicting to go and why do you think they have a better chance than Chicago? --Brian

New Orleans and Philadelphia are the two NFC teams I included in the "Super Bowl Reality" portion of the column you referenced, so I think they have the best chance of going the distance. I reserve the right to change my mind, depending on what happens between now and the start of the regular season.

But for now, I believe the Saints and Eagles are better choices than the Bears and the rest of the NFC. The primary reason is that each team has better quarterbacking than the other teams in the conference. I also think their receivers give them the chance to be more explosive offensively (the Saints should continue to have one of the top offenses in the league). And, addressing the specific comparison with the Bears, I have more confidence in the ability of the Saints and Eagles to run effectively with their backfield combinations than I do in Benson's ability to carry Chicago's rushing load.

Why do you think Tennessee should wait until next year to go to the Super Bowl? Look at what they did last season. They were ONE game away from going to the playoffs after starting 2-4. Doesn't that ring a bell? --Lewis G.

It does. I was as impressed as anyone with the way the Titans came on at the end of the 2006 season. I thought Vince Young took some big steps toward showing he is going to be a special all-around quarterback in the NFL.

But what rang a louder bell for me was the many key losses the Titans have suffered since the end of last year. Travis Henry's departure has put a major hole in the offense that I don't believe will be easily plugged this season. Adam Jones' season-long suspension is a huge blow to the defense, and an even larger one for special teams.

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