Russell raising questions about how much time he'll see

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- JaMarcus Russell's debut lasted 16 plays, moved 85 yards and yielded no points for the Oakland Raiders. It did generate more excitement at the Coliseum than the Raiders had seen for years.

The question the day after Russell finally got to play in the NFL was how much more of the No. 1 overall draft pick will people see in the final five weeks of the season.

Coach Lane Kiffin said he hadn't decided how he would split up the quarterback duties this week in Green Bay, but was pleased with how Russell's debut went in a 34-20 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

"What's really good is we got a chance to get him to play, we got a chance for him to play well, experience some good things happening, and we won the game," Kiffin said Monday. "Those things aren't always easy to do. You're playing a really good team in Denver, and you put in a guy who really hasn't played any football in a year, and you're still able to win. It worked out as good as it could have."

Russell's day started with a rollout pass to Jerry Porter for 16 yards that was thrown so hard Porter joked that the momentum of the throw almost carried him out of bounds. Russell also threw a 13-yard screen pass to Justin Fargas on his opening drive before botching a handoff with LaMont Jordan. A bad shotgun snap by Jeremy Newberry led to an 8-yard loss and a missed field goal to end the drive.

The second drive began with a 7-yard completion to Ronald Curry, featured a 20-yard pass to Curry before ending without points when Fargas was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 carry from the 25.

Russell finished 4-of-7 for 56 yards and also had a 4-yard scramble. Most importantly for Kiffin, he didn't turn the ball over.

"That's the first thing that you get nervous about is turnovers, because it's how you lose games and it's what young quarterbacks do a lot of usually," Kiffin said. "So we were really pleased with the way he protected the ball and his decision-making. And there's some other times on some throws where he could have forced some things and try to do too much, and he didn't."

The debut was so anticipated that Raiders fans began cheering as Russell started warming up on the sideline before his first series. He got a standing ovation when he walked on the field for the first time. Even players like cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and linebacker Thomas Howard said they made a point of taking a break from defensive preparations to catch Russell's first play in the NFL.

For veteran defensive tackle Warren Sapp, it was nothing unexpected after watching Russell the past three months in practice.

"I didn't expect anything different from him," Sapp said. "He's got it. Not all the mental aspects and checks and this and that or whatever. But the general tools of being a quarterback, he's always had it. He's a monster. I just can't wait until they give him the whole horse and let him whip it and do what he wants to do with it. I watch him every day. He's special."

The Raiders have a difficult closing stretch to the schedule, beginning with Sunday's game at Green Bay (10-2). That's followed with a home game against Indianapolis (10-2), a trip to Jacksonville (8-4) and a home game against San Diego (7-5).

They have gotten strong quarterback play throughout the past three weeks. Daunte Culpepper had his best two games, completing 38 of 61 passes for 514 yards, one touchdown and one interception, before missing Sunday's game with a sore quadriceps.

That gave Josh McCown the start and he responded by matching his career high with three touchdown passes against the Broncos in his best game yet with the Raiders.

But both veterans know their job is to groom Russell and bridge the gap until he's ready.

"I want him to have a great career, and if that starts next week, so be it," McCown said. "Because he's the guy. He's the future here. For me, it does me no good to be bitter, and it does this team no good. I'm still on this team and if I'm bitter and I could have helped JaMarcus in any way, shape or form, and he goes out and struggles, well then our team doesn't do any good. Now I'm just (mad) on a bad team. So for me, I've got to help him as much as I can."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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