The Oakland Raiders finally signed their quarterback of the future, but who will be manning the position Sunday is a more pressing concern.
First-year coach Lane Kiffin may be forced to use his second quarterback in as many weeks as the Raiders play their AFC West archrivals, the Denver Broncos, at Invesco Field.
After a disappointing 36-21 loss to the Detroit Lions in Kiffin's debut, the Raiders (0-1) got some good news Wednesday when quarterback JaMarcus Russell - the top overall pick in the draft - finally ended his 48-day holdout and signed a record six-year contract for a rookie that could be worth as much as $61 million but has $29 million in guaranteed money.
"Once I signed the contract I did drop a few tears just to know that I'm a blessed person," said Russell, who worked out on his own in Atlanta while missing training camp, four exhibition games and the season opener. "Very blessed to be in the place I am today and worked hard for it and I can't wait to go out there and work even harder and just to get it."
Kiffin held off on naming a Week 1 starter to get a competitive advantage before Josh McCown took the field, but has yet to name a starter this week because McCown is questionable due to injury. McCown, who threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, has a bruised index finger and a sprained right foot - the latter causing more angst regarding his availability.
"It's pretty sore. It's actually very sore," McCown said about his foot. "It's kind of day to day and try to get back into it so I can get better at pushing off on it."
If McCown is unable to play, Kiffin would likely use Daunte Culpepper, but wide receiver Ronald Curry - coming off a 10-catch, 133-yard effort - isn't concerned who's throwing the ball to him.
"If it was Week 15 or something it would, but we just broke camp and have been working with different guys, nobody was a solidified starter at receiver or quarterback spot so you pretty much work with Josh, Andrew and Pep at the same time," said Curry, who has 43 catches in his last four games dating back to last season. "So I'm pretty much comfortable with anybody that's up in there."
While Broncos coach Mike Shanahan joked Kiffin can easily solve the problem by starting his prized rookie Russell, he has a gifted young quarterback of his own in Jay Cutler. Firmly entrenched as a starter in his second year, Cutler threw for a career-high 304 yards and led Denver on a drive that ended in Jason Elam's game-winning field goal as time expired in a 15-14 victory at Buffalo.
"That's the job of the quarterback," said Cutler, who converted two fourth down plays on the winning drive. "That's why we get paid the big bucks."
Elam, who had missed two field goals earlier - matching his total for all of 2006 - was able to drill a 42-yarder as time wound down as the Broncos' kicking unit scurried onto the field.
"I'm going to look back at this game down the road and this is going to be one of my favorites," said Elam, who has scored more points for one team than anyone else in NFL history. "Out of all the kicks I've had, I've never had a scenario like that."
Shanahan, a former Raiders coach, has enjoyed sticking it to his former team since arriving in Denver. He is 19-5 against the Raiders, and a win would make him just the second active coach to have 20 wins against a team, joining Joe Gibbs.
Travis Henry had 139 yards rushing in his Broncos debut, and has topped 100 in his last three games. Wide receiver Javon Walker has 10 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns in three lifetime games against the Raiders.
Denver has won its last seven home openers since a 38-21 loss to Miami on Sept. 13, 1999. The Broncos have won four straight over the Raiders since a 25-24 loss on Nov. 28, 2004, and limited them to 16 points in sweeping last year's series.
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