Russell pleads not guilty; QB's lawyer hints at return to field

Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell pleaded not guilty to a charge of illegal drug possession Tuesday in Mobile, Ala.

Russell, 24, is a former LSU star who was released by the Raiders three years after they chose him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He is charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, codeine syrup.

Codeine can be used to make "purple drank," a concoction made up of codeine syrup, soda and Jolly Rancher candy.

Authorities have said that Russell didn't have a prescription for the drug and that he was arrested July 5 at his home as part of an undercover investigation.

Russell's attorney, Donald Briskman, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that there were about nine or 10 people in the house at the time of the arrest and he believes Russell will be exonerated once all the evidence is known.

Russell, a high school star in Mobile, had no comment after his court appearance. He has been free on $2,500 bond.

Briskman said he asked for an early hearing in order for Russell to put the case behind him and renew his effort to play professional football. A hearing is set for Aug. 11 to determine if there is enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury.

NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi said earlier this month that he believes Russell will have to repair his image by playing in the Canadian Football League, where the Hamilton Tiger-Cats own the quarterback's rights.

The arrest is the latest setback for Russell following his May 6 release from the Raiders. Russell spent three lackluster seasons in Oakland, won just seven of his 25 starts and eventually was benched.

Russell completed just 52.1 percent of his passes with the Raiders. He threw for 18 touchdowns with 23 interceptions, and he also had 15 lost fumbles and a 65.2 passer rating.

After releasing Russell, the Raiders filed a grievance seeking to recoup approximately $9.5 million of the $36.4 million that they paid the quarterback since 2007.

Since the start of the common draft in 1967, only one other No. 1 overall pick was released that quickly in his NFL career. The Indianapolis Colts cut 1992 top pick Steve Emtman after three seasons, but that was more because of injuries than production.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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