With Russell a no-show, Raiders not saying which QB will start

NAPA, Calif. -- Lane Kiffin isn't saying yet who the Oakland Raiders starting quarterback will be for Saturday's preseason-opener against Arizona.

The only thing for certain is that it won't be JaMarcus Russell, the unsigned No. 1 draft pick who remains at his mother's house in Mobile, Ala.

Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown and Andrew Walter are all listed together on the depth chart put out by the team on Tuesday.

"The thought was that we're obviously in a competition at that spot (and) no one of the three has emerged as a clear-cut guy by any means," Kiffin said. "We don't need to have the starter (selected) right now so we're going to let them play, and to the best that we can, they'll have equal reps in the game."

As they have throughout training camp, McCown and Walter split reps with the Raiders' first-team offense on Tuesday and figure to get the majority of work against the Cardinals. Culpepper -- who became the favorite to win the starting job after signing with a one-year deal with Oakland on July 31 -- practiced with the second-team offense and will have a limited package of plays against Arizona while he tries to get up to speed with Kiffin's offense.

"We're not playing a real game yet so we'll just keep pushing him as hard as we can push him along and see how far he comes," Kiffin said.

In his brief time with the Raiders, Culpepper has proven his arm is fine. During passing drills, his throws are sharper and more crisp than those of either McCown or Walter. But there are still questions about Culpepper's mobility after he missed most of last season due to lingering problems in his right knee.

There are reservations about McCown and Walter, as well.

McCown was part of a draft-day trade with Detroit and hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2005. He spent all of last season as a back up to Jon Kitna with the Lions and was hoping to parlay a starting job this year into a big payday next offseason when he becomes a free agent.

Walter was 2-6 as a starter for the Raiders last season and was the lowest rated quarterback in the NFL after throwing 13 interceptions and completing 55.8 percent of his passes. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the offseason and wasn't able to practice until the team opened camp.

Meanwhile, Russell remains unsigned and is one of only two first-round picks without a contract. His representatives have yet to speak publicly on the matter, and Marc Badain -- the Raiders' chief negotiator with Russell -- declined to comment after attending practice Tuesday.

Kiffin, who has maintained contact with Russell throughout negotiations, didn't sound optimistic when asked if an agreement with Russell was close.

"I wouldn't use the word close, no," Kiffin said, adding that the prolonged talks are hurting the rookie quarterback's chances of playing in the preseason. "Every day hurts him. Every (missed) practice just puts him that far behind. We just talked about how hard it is for Daunte to catch up and he's been playing in this league for a while. Here's somebody who's never taken a snap in the league, so every day that he misses hurts his chances."

Notes: The Raiders signed veteran tight end O.J. Santiago, who started seven games for the team in 2003.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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