NAPA, Calif. -- JaMarcus Russell returned to Oakland Raiders practice on Thursday after being sidelined for two sessions because of a sore elbow.
Russell took part in all team drills, but held back a bit in his throwing to make sure not to damage his elbow even more after banging it off the helmet of teammate Darren McFadden on Tuesday.
"I'm just trying to protect myself as much as I can," Russell said Thursday. "I just wanted to get out here today just so I could get back in practice. I don't really like sitting out and watching guys bust their behinds when I can be out there doing something."
Russell said he felt fine after the practice and would be ready for the night session later Thursday. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said Russell didn't have his usual velocity but that there were no concerns that the injury was serious.
With Russell back with the first team, Andrew Walter returned to the backup role he has had for most of his time in Oakland. Once the quarterback of the future for the Raiders, Walter became an afterthought when the Raiders used the No. 1 overall pick on Russell in the 2007 draft.
"Am I happy with that? No. I want to be a starter," Walter said. "I've always said I don't want to be a backup in the NFL. ... That's not something I'm thrilled about but that is the role and I have to embrace it."
Walter pointed to other late-bloomers at quarterback such as Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Steve Young and remains hopeful that he will get his chance someday, even if it has to be with another team.
Walter, a third-round pick by Oakland in 2005, sat out his rookie year under coach Norv Turner, but the team thought highly enough of him to pass on Matt Leinart in the draft the following season.
Walter got his chance in 2006 under coach Art Shell and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh in one of the worst offenses in NFL history.
Oakland scored just 168 points in 2006 -- the fifth fewest in a 16-game season -- and failed to score on offensive touchdown in eight games on the way to a 2-14 season.
Walter had both wins but lost his six other starts, struggling with turnovers and accuracy while getting little protection from a porous offensive line. Walter threw 13 interceptions, lost nine fumbles and was sacked 46 times. He completed only 53.3 percent of his passes, threw for three touchdowns and had a passer rating of 55.8.
"I wouldn't say it shook my confidence," Walter said. "I would say it was a fiasco and I would say it was as clueless of a staff as I've ever heard. We had guys in the NFL with 200 years of experience in the locker room. Some guys 10 years, some guys 13, 15 years, talking to those guys, it was a complete joke. So, that was a hard situation. To be a quarterback who has never played, in that situation, certainly was difficult."
Walter came into camp last summer competing with Josh McCown for the starting spot. Then with Russell holding out, the Raiders signed Daunte Culpepper. Kiffin soon decided to make it a two-man competition for the starting role with Walter left out despite having the best practice statistics.
That led to even more frustration for Walter, who just wanted to know what his role was in Oakland.
"I think at one point I was 10 points higher than everybody and a handful less picks, and obviously, it didn't matter. So that's disconcerting when you're in a situation when it's open competition and it doesn't matter," Walter said. "You take everything with a grain of salt."
Once Russell signed, Walter hoped to get traded instead of being a fourth quarterback and even had two bags packed to be ready to move at a moment's notice. Because of injuries to McCown and Culpepper, Walter remained in Oakland and only got a chance to play one game, late in a blowout loss at Green Bay.
Walter sat down with Kiffin after the season was over to find out whether he still fit into Oakland's plans. Walter is still around and is competing with Marques Tuiasosopo for the backup spot.
"It was a long year for him," Kiffin said. "It was a year where, at a couple of points, he was hoping to be traded. That didn't happen, obviously. He came back and had a good offseason. It's just been one thing after another. He played a little bit, then another guy comes in, then we draft JaMarcus, then we sign Daunte, so he's had a lot of stuff to go through. It has made him stronger."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press