Raiders' Cable won't commit to Russell at QB if Gradkowski is out

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- If Bruce Gradkowski can't play for the Oakland Raiders this weekend, coach Tom Cable isn't quite ready to name former starter JaMarcus Russell as his No. 1 quarterback against the Denver Broncos.

"Right now, it's about finding out where Bruce is at," Cable said Monday. "If in fact he's not ready to go, then how do we win the next three football games, period. It's not about this or that, or anyone's opinion. It will be mine, and that's what we'll do."

Gradkowski missed the second half of Sunday's 34-13 loss to the Washington Redskins with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee and a partially torn MCL in his right knee. Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, returned to the field for the first time since losing his starting job last month but was unable to move the Raiders' offense.

Cable said he considered replacing Russell with third-stringer Charlie Frye late in the game and didn't rule Frye out as an option if Gradkowski is unable to go this Sunday. Cable said he hoped to have a decision by Wednesday.

"I'll do what's best for this team, what gives us the best chance to win," Cable said. "Right now, it's to figure out where Bruce is at here in the next 24 to 48 hours and then make that decision."

Gradkowski had provided a spark since replacing Russell as the Raiders' starting quarterback. He won two of his three starts, engineering comeback victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers before the injury. The Raiders trailed 17-10 when Gradkowski was hurt before being blown out.

Oakland (4-9) managed just three points and 39 yards in the second half with Russell, allowing six sacks and turning over the ball once. Cable said the Raiders looked like a different team with Russell at quarterback but said the players have to play better to overcome the change.

"Bruce has been doing a fantastic job for us lately," defensive end Jay Richardson said. "It's a shame that he couldn't go back out there. Bruce is a tough guy, but if you're hurt, you're hurt. That's just how it is. You could kind of see it emotionally a little bit, the wind left our sails, so to speak, just a little bit, when that happened. But that's part of the game. If a guy goes down, the next guy has to come in and step up, and the team has to rally around that guy."

Gradkowski completed 10 of 18 passes for 153 yards in the first half against the Redskins, leading the Raiders to 10 points. Russell struggled when he came in, going 10 of 16 for 74 yards with one interception.

Oakland has scored seven touchdowns in 105 full drives with Russell at quarterback this season. They have seven touchdowns in just 51 full drives with Gradkowski at the helm.

"For us as players, you just have to go out there and just play ball," running back Darren McFadden said. "You have to go out there, just say whoever's behind the center, you got to go out and play ball. You can't worry about who's going to be lining up behind the center, who's going to throw you the ball, who's going to hand it to you. Those are things you can't worry about. You have to go out there and play ball."

Russell lost his starting job last month after a disastrous start to his third NFL season. Russell is last in the league in completion percentage (48.0), yards per attempt (5.15) and passer rating (47.7). He has committed 15 turnovers and thrown just two touchdown passes.

That performance is a far cry from what the Raiders expected when they drafted Russell. The Raiders hoped he would turn around the franchise and eventually gave him a contract with about $32.5 million in guaranteed money. But Russell's career has sputtered from the start, and Oakland is now assured of its seventh consecutive losing season.

Russell said last week that fans would see "a totally different JaMarcus" when he next had a chance to play. However, Cable said he saw too many of the same issues that led to the benching in the first place.

"After looking at it on film, I see some things that are the same," Cable said. "I think that there's a couple things he did that were good. Again, I'll look at all that here in the next 24 hours because if we're heading toward a decision at the quarterback spot, then I pretty much do due diligence in all those things, and I'll sit down and look through everything again."

Notes:Raiders TE Zach Miller sustained his second concussion of the season after a hard hit by Redskins LB Rocky McIntosh late in the game and is day to day. ... Raiders S Michael Huff is day to day with a stinger. ... WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has missed two games with a sprained foot, is making only minimal progress in his recovery, and his status is unknown for this week.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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