Gruden remains optimistic about Russell

As the Raiders returned to the practice field for the first time since a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week, they did so without defensive tackle Darrell Russell. Russell did not attend Oakland's workouts on Wednesday and instead was believed to be on his way to New York for a hearing with the NFL regarding a possible third violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Head coach Jon Gruden said that Russell was excused for ''personal reasons'' and added that he expected the two-time Pro Bowler back at practice on Friday. ''We expect him back tomorrow night,'' said Gruden after the Raiders went through a rain-soaked practice Wednesday. ''I'm expecting him to play. I know very few details and legally I can't really comment much further than I have.'' Russell is reportedly in New York to attend a hearing at the NFL offices regarding what is being reported as his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Russell, who missed the first four regular season games earlier this year after a second strike of the policy, allegedly tested positive for the drug Ecstasy. Russell neither admitted nor denied the report following the loss to Arizona this past Sunday. He referred all questions about it to his agent, Leigh Steinberg. On Wednesday, several players spoke as if the suspension was a done deal but to a player they said they would rally around their teammate. ''I think everybody here is going to support Darrell no matter what,'' said wide receiver Tim Brown. ''Obviously he has to make the big steps but we're going to do whatever we have to do. Nobody is going to say he betrayed us or anything of that nature. It's just going to be sad to lose him for a couple of reasons. But again, we just have to move on.'' Safety Anthony Dorsett agreed. ''If there is a problem there, a legitimate problem, there's no way we can feel betrayed,'' he said. ''It can get out of hand and be hard for anybody to control. For us to judge him and not be in his shoes would be wrong. We're teammates, friends, and friends roll together.'' NOTES: First-round draft pick Derrick Gibson will see his role increase with the Raiders defense this week against Kansas City. Gibson has been playing primary in nickel and dime situations but Gruden indicated Wednesday the rookie defensive back will see some time with Oakland's base defense as a strong safety, though Marquez Pope is still the starter. ''He's been good on our practice field and he deserves to be on the field a little more than we've been getting him,'' said Gruden ... Gruden spoke for the first time about the team's decision to release punt returner David Dunn, whose fumble in last Sunday's overtime loss to Arizona set the Cardinals up for their game-winning field goal in overtime. ''I know how it appears. It almost looks as though David's a scapegoat for what occured with the turnover in overtime,'' Gruden said. ''But the difficulty we're having right now is the injury bug has hit our football team on offense.'' Indeed, Oakland signed fullback JI didermaine Williams to the roster on Wednesday as depth behind injured starter Jon Ritchie, who is not expected to play against the Chiefs on Sunday. Gruden denied the release of Dunn was meant to send a message to the rest of the players. ''I didn't premeditate that thing at all,'' Gruden said. ''The bottom line was we needed to make a roster move. Given the fact that we were going to go in another direction with the punt return aspect, David Dunn's role had diminished on our football team and we had to do what we had to do. The goal was not to send a message to anybody. I think the message was received loud and clear right after the ballgame. You don't need to compound that anymore than I think we already witnessed on Sunday.'' ... Right guard Mo Collins, Ritchie, cornerback Charles Woodson and left tackle Barry Sims were all held out of practice Wednesday. INJURY REPORT Raiders: Guard Mo Collins (leg) doubtful; fullback Jon Ritchie (ankle) doubtful; tackle Barry Sims (foot) questionable; cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) questionable; wide receiver Jerry Porter (ankle) probable; tight end Roland Williams (knee) probable. Chiefs: Tackle Victor Riley (ankle) doubtful; defensive tackle Nate Hobgood-Chuttick (ankle) probable; defensive end Duane Clemons (thigh) probable; cornerback Ray Crockett (groin) probable; defensive end Rich Owens (ribs) probable; wide receiver Larry Parker (shoulder) probable; guard Don Willis (calf) questionable. -30-

SB Report Top Stories