As the Raiders concluded their three-day mini-camp Thursday, JaMarcus Russell made his way around the huddle of players and high-fived several of his defensive teammates. That was fitting considering they spent most of the afternoon practice making life rough on Oakland's young quarterback.
Russell threw three interceptions, two on back-to-back throws during 7-on-7 drills when he tried forcing the ball into tight coverages. Another came when he under threw a deep pass for fullback Justin Griffith coming out of the backfield on a circle route.
Basically, the type of mistakes you'd expect from a quarterback still searching for a comfort zone in the NFL while at the same time taking over the reigns of an offense that was ranked 31st out of 32 teams in 2007.
He wasn't the only Oakland quarterback to have a rough day. Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo also had a tough time. On one particular play, Walter -- who doesn't look comfortable rolling out and throwing on the run -- was chased out of the pocket and drifted far to his left before chucking the ball over the barbed-wire fence that is a good 10 feet beyond the back of the end zone.
Tuiasosopo made a nice touchdown throw to a diving Drew Carter but later tossed a ball up for grabs in the end zone that was picked off by rookie Darrick Brown.
Barring injury, though, it will be Russell running the offense.
At times during the mini-camp he looked solid, flicking his wrist effortlessly while the ball sailed down the field. Russell fired one ball through traffic to find a receiver cutting across the end zone then he later jumped up to dump the ball off over a trio of blitzing defenders and get the ball to tight end Zach Miller, who turned up field and carried it into the end zone.
Minimizing his mistakes will be a big focus the rest of the offseason and on into training camp.
Russell has made considerable strides in two other areas, though. His weight -- always an issue -- was blown out of proportion in the offseason when there were reports he had ballooned up to 300 pounds. But Russell doesn't even look as heavy as he was a year ago when he checked in at 265.
He moves around well in the pocket and seems a good fit for the moving pocket the Raiders will use this year.
Maybe most significantly is that Russell has also commandeered the leadership role on the team after sitting back quietly as a rookie.
"The players call it street cred in the locker room," Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin said. "Did he have that before this offseason? I don't know that he did. He really hadn't done anything here to get that. But I think that's really showing up by the way they are with him and the way that they look him.".