Culpepper Can't Hold Off Calls For Rookie

Despite Daunte Culpepper having one his best passing totals in almost three years, the Raiders are still being hit with speculation about JaMarcus Russell's insertion into the game.

A 344-yard passing effort by Daunte Culpepper Sunday did little to stem the flow of questions directed at Raiders coach Lane Kiffin regarding the status of rookie No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell.

Culpepper completed 23 of 39 passes for 344 yards and the Raiders' only touchdown in a 29-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the highest yardage output by a Raiders quarterback since Kerry Collins passed for 371 yards in a 40-35 win over the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 19, 2004.

Coincidentally, that same day, Culpepper passed for 404 yards against the Detroit Lions as a member of the Vikings. Culpepper's game Sunday against the Vikings was his best yardage game since that day.

While the Raiders were getting ready to play Sunday, ESPN reported Russell was scheduled to start against the Broncos on Dec. 2. Kiffin refuted that claim on Sunday and again on Monday.

"We've not made any decisions about when JaMarcus is going to start or if he's going to start at all," Kiffin said. "We haven't made that decision yet. We'll continue to push him and evaluate him. At some point you'll see him. I can't tell you when right now."

Kiffin said it is likely that when Russell does play, it will not be in a starting role. It will be with a set number of plays in circumstances more easily controlled.

"He won't have to have everything mastered because we won't put him in that situation," Kiffin said. "It also isn't the pressure of going out right away. There's a number of reasons why I feel that's the best case for him to succeed."

Russell, who spends every pregame working on his own with quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and comes in on Tuesdays for extra work, has maintained all along he will support his teammates and be ready when called upon.

Oakland's offensive play of late was so poor Kiffin thinks it spurred Russell to his best week of practice last week.

"I think it really clicked in him, `Boy, look how close I could be to really doing this thing and my team needs me,' " Kiffin said. "He's really working hard with the conditioning and weight-room stuff and the playbook. I know for sure last week was his best week since he's been here and the most he's done since he's been here throughout the season."

As far as exactly when Russell will play, Kiffin said the best clue will be when he enters the game as the backup quarterback instead of No. 3.

Going into the Minnesota game, with Josh McCown injured, Kiffin named Andrew Walter as the backup.

When asked if Russell could be the backup Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, Kiffin said, "There's a chance."


  • Defensive tackle Warren Sapp had one of his best games as a Raider against Minnesota, forcing a fumble and at times seeming to be the only player on the defensive front who could get away from blockers and make a play.

    He sat at his locker after the game and in a matter-of-fact manner took apart the penalty-prone, mistake-prone ways of an organization he has belonged to for four years.

    "Too many penalties, defenders blowing assignments and a losing culture that stands in the way of change. Until we fix that and get out of our own damn way, we'll never win. It's the same (expletive) every week. There's nothing else to be said. We're an undisciplined unit, from top to bottom."

    Coach Lane Kiffin couldn't say he enjoyed hearing what Sapp had to say about how the Raiders came undone against the Vikings, but he couldn't refute it, either. Sapp played on great defenses in Tampa Bay under Kiffin's father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, and knows the difference.

    "When Warren's frustrated and something is happening, it's not just some rookie or second-year guy saying what he thinks might be happening," Kiffin said. "Warren knows what it's like to play great defense."

  • Culpepper had four completions of 25 yards or more, a welcome sight for receivers who have been growing frustrated over running short, safe pass routes.

    "It's not like we can't throw the ball deep; it's just not what we call," wide receiver Jerry Porter said. "When they call the plays to get us up the field, we execute ‘em. We just do what we're told to do."

  • RB LaMont Jordan, who gained 424 yards on 84 carries through four weeks until being slowed by a back injury, was inactive against Minnesota. He has 97 yards on 45 carries since the injury and has fallen behind Justin Fargas and Dominic Rhodes on the depth chart.

    Jordan's back is fine and the issue is not his health but his production.

    "Like I was told, it's not about yards. I'm in the position I'm in because I haven't been performing," Jordan said. "I just approach it the way I have been. Just keep my mouth shut the best I can and just go to work every day. I'm still getting a paycheck so I still have to show up for work."

    Jordan's fate could be tied to Oakland's decision to activate running back Michael Bush, who must be put on the 53-man roster by Wednesday or sit out the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

    Kiffin said Monday the Raiders had made no decision regarding Bush. If Bush is brought aboard, a player will have to be released or put on injured reserve to make room.

  • PK Sebastian Janikowski kicked five field goals in a game for the third time in his career, tying the team single-game record he holds with Jeff Jaeger.

  • CB Nnamdi Asomugha, who left in the third quarter after being kicked in the head by Chester Taylor, said he had a headache and had not suffered a concussion. Lane Kiffin said Asomugha would be checked out by a doctor.

  • LB Sam Williams played on special teams, the first time he was active after being out five weeks with a stinger. However, Kiffin said Robert Thomas had seized the starting job in Williams' absence.

  • DE Chris Clemons, a nickel defensive end, leads the Raiders in sacks with five after getting three in his last two games.

  • T Paul McQuistan went in for the injured Cornell Green in the first half against Minnesota at right tackle and struggled throughout. Green's status is uncertain Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium, another difficult venue for opposing offensive linemen.

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