Pubdate: Wed, 08 Aug 2001
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2001 San Jose Mercury News
Author: John Ryan


The defensive tackle will be out for the first four games  of the season. 
He missed a follow-up drug test that was required after he tested positive 
for marijuana early last year.

Russell's agent says his first positive drug test, last year, was the 
result of breathing second-hand marijuana smoke. Is that possible?

NAPA -- Darrell Russell insists he didn't inhale. But the Raiders defensive 
tackle will miss four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Russell, his agent and the team said Tuesday that the suspension did not 
come from a positive drug test. Rather, they said, Russell was not 
available when testers came to Oakland last year, and he did not contact 
them within 24 hours afterward, as was required because of a previous 
positive drug test. Russell's agent, Leigh Steinberg, attributed the 
positive test, in early 2000, to second-hand marijuana smoke.

NFL officials announced the suspension in a written statement but did not 
discuss it, adhering to a confidentiality agreement with the NFL Players 

Russell, who is coming off a subpar 2000 season after making the Pro Bowl 
in 1998 and '99, can finish training camp and play in exhibition games. But 
he cannot have any contact with the team from Sept. 2 to Oct. 1.

"I did not test positive,'' Russell said. "Someone showed up at my house 
unnotified, and I wasn't there.''

Steinberg blamed the NFL's ``Draconian'' drug program and its director, Dr. 
Lawrence Brown. Russell's case is similar to that of New England Patriots 
wide receiver Terry Glenn, whose agent said Glenn was suspended because he 
returned a phone call within 36 hours instead of 24. A missed test counts 
as a positive test.

"The only abuse that's occurred here is an abuse of power,'' Steinberg 
said. ``It's a bureaucrat who's obsessive-compulsive who is abusing Darrell 
Russell. He has passed a couple hundred tests that prove conclusively that 
he doesn't have a problem.

"What they're saying is he did not return a phone call quickly enough.''

Players are subject to random testing after one violation. Russell's 
positive test meant automatic enrollment in the substance-abuse program, 
which requires up to 10 urine tests per month.

Russell appealed the punishment at a hearing during the off-season but 
lost. Russell will miss a quarter of the season and lose $447,000, the 
prorated portion of his $1.9 million salary.

"This is embarrassing to myself, my family, my friends, my family friends 
and my team,'' Russell said. "But this is going to be a good way to weed 
out all the real friends that I have and all the fake friends.''

Although Russell's fourth NFL season was his worst -- a career-low three 
sacks and 31 tackles -- he is just 25, and the Raiders saw hope in the 
off-season that he could return to the dominating level of his first three 

"We're going to support him, and hopefully he can come back with this 
resolved and resume what I think is going to be a tremendous NFL career,'' 
Coach Jon Gruden said.

With Grady Jackson recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, Russell's 
absence will test the Raiders' depth. They run a rotating system that uses 
as many as eight linemen. They have gotten regular-season contributions 
from Rod Coleman and Josh Taves, and second-year tackle Junior Ioane was 
one of the top attention-grabbers in the first exhibition game.

Russell will work with the third team in practice this month. After that, 
he will be on his own. He will miss games at Kansas City and Miami and in 
Oakland against the New York Jets and Seattle; he returns during the bye 
week, with his first game at Indianapolis on Oct. 14.

"My main motivation is going to be to try to be in better shape than I 
would be if I were able to play the four games,'' Russell said. "I have to 
take all the negative energy that's coming to me at this point, turn it 
into a positive, and just work my butt off and get ready.''

Charles Woodson can identify with the frustrations of Russell and Glenn. 
Woodson was arrested for drunk driving in May 2000. He must check in with a 
psychiatrist once a week, notify the league when he takes a vacation and 
provide a contact number. If he gets a call for a test and doesn't check 
in, he could be suspended.

"It's ridiculous,'' Woodson said. "They treat you like you're out on parole.''

But Raiders defensive end Trace Armstrong, the president of the players 
association, said there are no surprises with the policy.

"We consulted, when it was developed, the leading specialist in the world 
in this area,'' Armstrong said. "The policy is the policy, and guys know 
the rules once you get in.''

In other Raiders news:

The team signed offensive lineman Aaron Graham and waived receiver Diaello 
Burks. Graham started at center for the Arizona Cardinals in 1998 and '99.
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