Redskins sign troubled DT Russell

Updated: October 29, 2003, 7:44 PM ET

ASHBURN, Va. -- Deciding the need was worth the risk, the Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Darrell Russell to a one-year, $790,000 contract Wednesday.

Russell joins the team two days after he was reinstated by the NFL following a 1{-year suspension for a second violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

"We don't have a lot to lose," said coach Steve Spurrier, whose team has lost three straight.

The Redskins are in dire need of defensive line help. They cut Dan Wilkinson during the offseason, and Brandon Noble was lost for the season with a knee injury in training camp, leaving a patchwork of mostly career backups who haven't stopped the run and have generated very little pass rush.

Russell, the No. 2 overall pick by Oakland in the 1997 draft, had 28{ sacks in five seasons with the Raiders and made the Pro Bowl in 1998 and 1999. He remained under contract to the Raiders during his suspension, and they cut him Monday after it was lifted.

Russell met with Redskins owner Dan Snyder on Tuesday night and canceled trips to Dallas and several other teams after a day of negotiations and background-checking.

"I think Snyder's taking a big gamble with me," Russell said. "Look at my past, and look at the way everyone views me at this current time. Whether he needs a D-tackle or not, enough people are on his back as it is.

"All I can do is be thankful to him and Spurrier for giving me this opportunity. The last thing I want to do is let a man like that down."

Last fall, prosecutors dropped rape charges against Russell, claiming they could not prove he videotaped a woman being raped by two of his friends in January 2002.

Russell said he has learned from his troubles, but knows he has work to do to overcome skeptical teammates.

"I'm very concerned about being accepted here," Russell said. "In order to win, especially at this point in this league, chemistry is a big factor. I can be the greatest player ever to play at this position, but if I don't fit in with the team, I'm useless."

Spurrier appeared far from comfortable discussing Russell, but defended the move.

"We may take a bad hit PR-wise, but he's not been convicted of the charge made against him," Spurrier said. "There's a lot of players in this league that have had a lot more serious charges than what he had. ... He's not in jail, is he? And the NFL says he can play. They're pretty thorough on what can play and who can't."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index