by Michael Lombardi
May 07, 02010
QUOTE: “For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness. Filled by it, in fact. They are devoid of all hope as well as imagination. In other words, devoid of any future.” -- Elie Wiesel
When I think of the meaning of the word indifference, I think about Oakland Raiders first overall pick JaMarcus Russell -- in all of his actions, his behavior and his mannerisms. He projects an image of someone who doesn’t care, someone who is unwilling to change or accept responsibility for anything. The Raiders were willing to protect their investment, willing to do whatever it took to help Russell, even if they had to lie about his weight, his work habits and his commitment to football. They felt they could control his behavior and make him see the light — but he was indifferent to their help just as he was indifferent to his career.
Even with the Raiders meeting him more than halfway, Russell was unwilling to extend the slightest effort. The past few years, there are many reasons to take shots at the Raiders, but when it comes to Russell, their mistake lies in the selection, not in the attempt to make him a player. Right from the start with his prolonged holdout, the Raiders learned that Russell did not like football. From sleeping in meetings to his off-the-field behavior, they realized he played football for the perks, not for the love of the game. All these things should have been worked out before the pick, but the Raiders believed they could change Russell. It’s just hard to change someone who’s indifferent to change.
I find it laughable that some will say he needs to be backup quarterback as he settles into his career. Backup quarterbacks have to prepare, they have to study, they have to be ready to play at a moment’s notice without getting many reps. They have to be willing to sacrifice, and most of all, they have to be committed to improving. All those things Russell seems unwilling to do now, so why would he do them for a new team? Who could trust him to be prepared, to be willing to work, to be diligent -- and to not be indifferent? What message do you send to your team if you sign him? Being a third-string quarterback is the job he wants. He can sleep in the meetings, never has to play unless there’s an emergency and still make NFL money. Why would anyone give Russell a job that belongs to the willing, the dedicated, the committed?
The Raiders learned last year that no matter who played quarterback, they had a chance to win as long as their name was not Russell. I’m sure it had to be painful for the owner to watch the team rally around the backups, but there was no ignoring the powerful message it sent to entire Raider nation. Clearly, Russell lost the fans, the team, the coaches and now finally the owner. His waiver Thursday was the fastest since the combined draft started in 1967 that the first overall pick was gone from the team. Normally, it’s the Raiders picking up former No. 1 overall picks, but now they’ve sent one of their own packing. Times have changed in the NFL.
My advice for JaMarcus Russell would be to hold a press conference to let the world know you deserved to be cut, that you have not taken football seriously, but now you’ve learned a powerful lesson. He needs to tell anyone who will listen that he’s headed to the gym to train; he’s going to do whatever it takes to get in shape and prepare for his future, because today he has accepted responsibility for his actions. He must train every day, must be willing to make sacrifices — and most of all must stop being indifferent. His return to the NFL may not come quickly, but he can’t control what others want to do with him. He can only control himself.
Alone with all his thoughts, Russell must ask himself one fundamental question: Am I willing to no longer be indifferent? And the answer will lie in his behavior starting this morning. Let’s hope he reads the quote above before he starts his new day.
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