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JaMarcus Russell comeback: A strange NFL Journey

The journey of an NFL quarterback can at times be a strange one. JaMarcus Russell is such a case.  The former Oakland Raiders No. 1 overall pick has not played football since 2009 season. 

During his time off, Russell ballooned up to over 300 pounds.  Although he did not stay in shape, his cannon right arm still fires on all cylinders.  His workout with the Chicago Bears on Friday went well according to a report from  

Many believe Russell squandered his chance in the NFL, but he is not the first high pick to mess up his original opportunity.

Joey Harrington was selected No. 3 overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2002 NFL Draft. After struggling in Detroit, he was afforded other opportunities with the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints.

After flaming out with the San Diego Chargers, Ryan Leaf got another shot with the Dallas Cowboys.  Tim Couch, Cade McNown, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, and Matt Leinart all got at least a second look after struggling initially.  Even Akili Smith got a couple looks after struggling with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

While all the players listed received a second or third shot in the league, none of them became true impact players.  After many failed experiments, is it even worth it to rehab a quarterback after he has failed as a high draft pick?

There are some cases where first round picks do bounce back.  Former No. 1 pick Vinny Testaverde struggled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, when he got to the New York Jets late in his career, he lead the team to an AFC Championship game. Many believe the Jets would have reached the Super Bowl if he did not tear his Achilles tendon in the 1999 season.

Jeff George was the No. 1 overall pick for the Indianapolis Colts and it did not work out well for him.  He later played for the Minnesota Vikings and led them to a playoff berth.

Tommy Maddox was picked in No. 25 overall by the Denver Broncos but John Elway’s Hall of Fame career was far from over and Maddox soon found himself out of football.  He would come back years later and lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a playoff berth. 

Whichever side of the coin Russell falls on has yet to be seen.  He has a lot of work to do to even shake the reputation of being lazy and not loving the game of football.  His work thus far is not to be discounted, but for Russell, the journey back to the NFL is a long way from being complete.

Photo Credit: Jack Dempsey / AP 

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Keenan Actkins

Keenan Actkins is an Arizona resident living in the Phoenix metropolitan area. He brings a wealth of sports knowledge and passion to the team with his unique insight and strong voice and opinion. He also contributes to Yahoo! Voices and has written for


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