Garcia lauds Russell's new presence

Jeff Garcia said the Bears will see a slimmer JaMarcus Russell, who still has strong skills. Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI

JaMarcus Russell faces difficult odds of landing a roster spot Friday when he works out for the Chicago Bears at Halas Hall, but former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia thinks the club will "definitely (see) a different physical presence than what they may be expecting."

Having worked with Russell at TEST Academy in San Diego, Calif., Garcia told the "Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 that Russell -- the 2007 No. 1 overall pick of the Oakland Raiders -- is currently "below 270 (pounds), close to that 265 range," which represents an accomplishment considering Russell initially reported for training in late Jan. weighing 315 pounds.

While shedding the weight, Russell also regained his confidence.

"Well, he's gonna come in looking more athletic. Even when he was heavier he was pretty good on his feet. But he's gonna be so much better on his feet," Garcia said. "The natural abilities for him to throw the ball as people saw when he was coming out of LSU -- he is impressive in that way. He does have just the natural technique. That ball comes out so smooth, so effortlessly. It's slick, it rotates. It goes the way that you would like it to go.

"I think more so than anything though, it's gonna be his confidence (the Bears will see). Walking in with his head up, understanding from a mature standpoint where he was when he left the game four years ago, where he is today as a person. How much this means to him, I think that's one of the things that he definitely has to demonstrate. He definitely has to show that this is something that he's passionate about, that he does have that fire burning inside, that he's ready to step through those doors, blow those doors open, show that he has what it takes to get back into the league, and hopefully land that sort of roster position."

Russell hasn't played a down of football in the NFL since 2009, and won just seven of 25 starts during his career at Oakland. Russell received approximately $39 million in three seasons in Oakland, and has completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a passer rating of 65.2.

In 2010, authorities charged Russell with felony possession of a controlled substance, a drink containing codeine cough syrup, when offers raided his home that July. A grand jury declined to indict the quarterback later that year on those charges.

Determined to remove the "bust" label attached to him, Russell has worked diligently to clean up his personal life and gain a level of maturity that will enable him to succeed in the NFL, according to Garcia.

"I believe that he's come a long way," Garcia said. "Even though we're looking at a short period of time, he definitely pushed his body to the limit. He went into a situation where he had to physically and mentally challenge himself to get into a better place in his own life for his own happiness. He definitely has done that over the past 4 ½, 5 months. I would hope that he will demonstrate and continue to have what we would like to say (is) creating better habits, creating better daily habits. I think when he looks back at what he did or didn't do when he was with the Raiders for those three seasons, he's got to understand what he could have done better, what he wasn't doing at that time, what he needs to do today as a person, as a player, if given an opportunity. Hopefully he realizes that, understands that.

"It's something that I have been sharing with him the entire time he was working with me. If he comes in with that sort of mindset, that sort of understanding that I have to grind. I have to be in the meeting rooms. I have to watch film on my own. I have to be dedicated to the weight room. I have to be a leader, not just on the field, not just in the locker room but in the community; all of those things if you want to establish or reestablish yourself at that elite level. You have to do those things."

Even if Russell performs well on Friday, he'll still face difficulty making the roster because the Bears already have three quarterbacks on the roster in Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard, and the team is reluctant to add a fourth player at the position, a league source told ESPNChicago.com. The source said the team wants merely to obtain a current evaluation of Russell and other players set to attend the workout as it ponders the back end of the roster, and puts together a short list of players it might contact in the event of injuries.

Is Russell capable of wowing the scouts Friday at Halas Hall enough to land a roster spot? Garcia wasn't overly effusive with his endorsement.

"I think he's capable of walking through those doors and showing some very impressive skills," he said. "Those skills aren't gonna be much different than what people were impressed with when they saw him coming out of LSU. Obviously, there were a lot of positive impressions that the young man made back when he was coming out. He still possesses a lot of those same skills.

"I think what he does have is that he now understands better what he has to do in order to battle and to compete at the highest levels. Back then (when he was with the Raiders), he was coming out of an all-star college football program, had always been the cream of the crop, and all of the sudden landing at the elite level where you're no longer the king of the mountain. Everybody else is battling to be that king. And if you don't battle from a work standpoint, from a consistency standpoint, you're gonna get kicked off the mountain. He had a hard time, he didn't get up there, and he didn't battle the way that he needed to battle. Hopefully with those years passing him, with maturity and growth and understanding what he had and what he has lost, he's in a place now where he will be that utmost competitor, have that spirit alive and burning inside of him to come back and do what he needs to do."