Russell to starts? Kiffin says no

Lane Kiffin shot down rumors that JaMarcus Russell will make his NFL debut as the Raiders' starting quarterback when Oakland hosts Denver on Dec. 2.

ESPN and FoxSports both reported that the Raiders would hold off one more week before allowing JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 pick in the draft who has yet to play this year, to take the field for the first time in a game situation. Both also reported that Russell would start.

But a day after Oakland dropped their sixth straight game, a 29-22 loss to Minnesota in which quarterback Daunte Culpepper passed for a season-high 344 yards, Kiffin denied any plans had been made for Russell and that the rookie's first appearance would likely be in a back-up role.

"(Reporters) asked me yesterday, ‘Is JaMarcus going to start the Denver game when you come home? There's been reports that he's starting.' I said, ‘ Well, not that I know of. That'd be news to me.'" Kiffin said Monday. "We've not made any decisions about when JaMarcus is going to start or if he's going to start at all. We haven't made that decision yet.

"I would phrase it as it's likely that the first time that JaMarcus will play will probably not be in a starting role. I would say that's safe to say. Most likely, if JaMarcus plays this year it'll be in a limited role initially. " According to report on ESPN, Chris Mortensen reported that Russell's "light came on" a few weeks ago which is why the team is more comfortable using him now.

Kiffin agreed that Russell's performance in practice has improved recently but adamantly denied the team had set a timetable for his debut.

"JaMarcus has really had two solid weeks of practice and especially last week was his best week since he's been here," Kiffin said. "I think it has something to do with that we weren't playing very well on offense over the last month and I think it really clicked in to him, ‘Boy look how close I could be to really doing this thing and my team needs me.' So I think that may have had something to do with it. He's really working hard with the conditioning and weight room stuff and the playbook. He's coming along really well. Last week, I know last week for sure was his best week that he's had since he's been here and it's the most that he's done since he's been here throughout the season."

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