- Adam Schefter, NFL
- 0 Shares
The first overall pick from the 1976 NBA draft is now trying to help the first overall pick from the 2007 NFL draft make the type of comeback that he once did.
Former NBA standout John Lucas, who conquered personal demons before a successful return to basketball, is serving as a life coach for former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, according to league sources.
For the past month, the two have been training together in Houston and Russell even tweeted early Friday: "Good morning!!! Workout No. 1. John Lucas came early today. #letsgetit."
Each man has plenty in common. Each was a No. 1 overall pick, each played in the Bay Area, and each was booed until he left town. Lucas has begun to make Russell accountable, according to those who have witnessed their time together.
He has Russell at the track each weekday morning by 7 a.m. Whereas Russell struggled to finish 400-yard dashes in the past, he now is ripping off three of them in a row. He is running sprints, lifting weights, doing what he can to get in the best shape possible. Russell appears to be taking his work more seriously than he did in Oakland. He is said to be in a better physical and mental spot than he was until the Raiders cut him during the offseason.
Russell was arrested in July for alleged possession of codeine. He told ESPN's Colleen Dominguez that he tested positive for codeine after the Raiders selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft but that he has not used codeine in three years.
It could be months before a grand jury decides whether the evidence from Russell's arrest in July warrants an indictment.
Former NBA Players Association executive director Charles Grantham helped bring the two men together. He had a connection to each and thought their match would be beneficial. Russell even was approached about working with Lucas last season, but resisted such overtures, worried about the perception it might create. But for the past month, he has welcomed it and blossomed under it.
Now the question is whether someone will give Russell another chance. With all the quarterback injuries and benchings, it's possible that Russell could return to the NFL later this season. It's also possible that teams will want Russell to put more time in with Lucas before one contemplates bringing him back to the NFL. But at this point, Russell now is trying to follow the path that Lucas once did -- from greatness, to rock bottom, back up the mountain again.
Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider.
15hEric D. Williams
16hSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo