If there was any legitimacy to reports tying the Vikings to former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the recently released first overall draft pick in 2007, when Russell was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance those possibilities went by the wayside.
When the reports initially surfaced that the most likely landing spots for Russell were either the Vikings or the Cardinals, VU was quick to shoot down the reports for several reasons. But, the story is about as bizarre as they come.
As the news broke that Russell was arrested for possession of a controlled substance, the first thought many likely had was that it was cocaine or another hard narcotic. Instead, it was for illegal possession of cough syrup that contains codeine – a prescription-required product used by those suffering from severe cold and flu symptoms. In the aftermath of the arrest, it is said that the recreational drink is mixed with soda or alcohol that is used by people looking to get a buzz, and is referred to by slang terms like “lean,” “purple drank” and “sizzurp.” Those with knowledge of the concoction say that, when used in high doses, has the effect, as well as the potential complications, of morphine.
Published reports claim that Russell has been rumored to have a history of using codeine syrup. While not known as a popular way of getting intoxicated, the mixing of prescription codeine cough syrup, which also contains the antihistamine promethazine, is a problem noted by law enforcement in the southern U.S.
In a 2007 story in The Houston Chronicle, rapper Al D said, “When I was drinking ‘drank,’ I wasn’t thinking about what it could be doing to my health. I’m 180 pounds and, when I was on ‘drank,’ I was 240. It got so much sugar in it that it blows you up and makes you eat a lot.” Russell has consistent problems with his weight and reported to the Raiders post-draft minicamp at more than 300 pounds, lending some credence to the statements pertaining to weight gain as a result of being a regular user of the codeine-laced concoction.
Russell was arrested at his home in Mobile, Ala., as part of an ongoing undercover investigation for the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department. Codeine is a mild narcotic that is often prescribed by doctors for those with advanced chest congestion as the result of colds or flu. Russell was arrested at 4:22 p.m. local time and was released after posting $2,500 bail. He is scheduled for his first court appearance on July 20. A bond hearing is set for Wednesday.
In his three years with the Raiders, the team shelled out a whopping $39 million in salary and bonuses. The team is seeking the return of $9.55 million, claiming that the money was paid as an advance on future years of his contract. When the Raiders filed the suit seeking a return of the $9.55 million, many legal analysts laughed it off. Now that case may have more legitimacy.
Russell was released within days of the Raiders trading for Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. Had Russell been injured during minicamps or OTAs, the Raiders would have been on the hook for $6.45 million. While that portion of the contract was saved, his rookie contract called for $3 million to be guaranteed in 2010.
We didn’t believe there was any legitimacy to the proposition that the Vikings were interested in signing Russell, but it appears now that his NFL career is likely over. He is likely to face a suspension if any team signs him, but that seems like a remote possibility considering the NFL’s stronger stance on “protecting the shield” – keeping the good name of the NFL from being dragged down by individual bad behavior. Ben Roethlisberger’s second run-in with an alleged sexual assault has resulted in a six-game suspension (likely dropped to four games) despite not being arrested. It can only be imagined that Russell would receive a ban of some length for this embarrassing scenario.
If there was any validity to the rumors that the Vikings had an interest in Russell, you can officially scratch them off the list. In a culture of accountability that the Vikings have engendered with their players, Russell has become the poster boy of what not to do.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.