Russell saga wears on Gruden

Jon Gruden says he's been kept in the dark regarding Darrell Russell's possible drug suspension and admits it is beginning to wear on him. The Raiders head coach nevertheless says Oakland is moving forward as if they'll have their two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the rest of the season.

As Oakland finalized preparations for its Saturday night game against the Tennessee Titans, Gruden talked about the cloud of mystery that has been surrounding Russell since a television station first reported three weeks ago that Russell had tested positive for the designer drug Ecstacy. Because the offense would be Russell's third, he faces a one-year suspension if the latest allegation is proven to be true. Russell has met with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, reportedly to appeal his third strike, but no word from the league has come down regarding the situation. It's the league's normal operations not to comment on any possible drug-related infraction or possible suspensions, and Russell has chosen not to talk about the subject. That's left Gruden, whose team is in the midst of fighting for homefield advantage in the playoffs, to handle all questions about the issue, an issue the head coach says he doesn't have a clear understanding of. ''I'm like that guy in Hogan's Heroes. I know nothing,'' Gruden jokingly told reporters Wednesday. ''I have to answer a lot of questions about something I don't know the answers to. It's probably not as (annoying) to me as it is to Darrell Russell.'' Russell missed the first four games this season for a second violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He had only recently been reinstated to Oakland's starting lineup when word first leaked that the former first-round draft pick had tested positive for Ecstacy. But because Russell filed an appeal with the league he has been allowed to continue playing with the Raiders until the matter is resolved. Perhaps not coincidentally, Russell has played some of his best football this season in the three weeks since the first report surfaced that he might be suspended for a year. In the three games Oakland has played sicne then, Russell has made 18 tackles, one sack, an interception and two passes defensed. Gruden admitted the uncertainty facing Russell has made it difficult for the team to clearly set out a game plan from week to week not knowing whether the starting defensive tackle with be available to play or not. Still, he says, the team has no intention of taking Russell out of the lineup. ''I wish there was more of a clear-cut explanation,'' Gruden said. ''These are big games coming up. We're concerned about Darrell and we'd like to get clarification on it.'' NOTES Right guard Mo Collins is definitely out for Saturday's game against Tennessee and could be done for the season, though Gruden said he is holding out hope Collins could return. ''Right now we see a glimmer of hope, some light at the end of the tunnell, so we'll hold onto that glimmer until the trainers say anything differently.'' ... Kicker Sebastian Janikowski was excused from practice Wednesday for personal reasons. In his absence punter Shane Lechler handled all of the kicking duties in practice while quarterback Rich Gannon was the holder for extra-point and field goal attempts ... Cornerback Charles Woodson did not practice, but left tackle Barry Sims did return to workouts. INJURY REPORT Raiders: Guard Mo Collins (leg) doubtful; tackle Barry Sims (foot) questionable; kicker Sebastian Janikowski (groin) probable; cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) probable; fullback Jon Ritchie (ankle) probable. Titans: Safety Blaine Bishop (foot/ankle/hand) out; wide receiver Justin McCareins (ankle) out; defensive tackle Joe Salave'a (ankle) out; defensive tackle Robaire Smith (thumb) out; running back Eddie George (ankle) questionable; linebacker Randall Godfrey (knee) questionable; cornerback DeRon Jenkins (knee/neck) questionable; center Kevin Long (knee) questionable; quarterback Steve NcNair (back) questionable; cornerback Donald Mitchell (knee) questionable; safety Aric Morris (ankle) questionable; guard Zach Piller (wrist) questionable; safety Daryl Porter (knee) questionable; cornerback Samari Rolle (foot) questionable; wide receiver Chris Sanders (back) questionable.

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