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Car crash kills ex-Raider Russell

Associated Press

Darrell Russell, a former standout NFL and Southern California defensive lineman whose promising career was derailed by drugs, was killed in a high-speed car crash early Thursday in Los Angeles.

Russell, 29, was a passenger in a car driven by former USC teammate Mike Bastianelli that went out of control about 6 a.m. and hit a curb, tree, newsstand, fire hydrant, light pole, another tree and an unoccupied transit bus, Lt. Paul Vernon said.

Both Russell and Bastianelli, 29, were unconscious when firefighters arrived.

Russell died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Bastianelli died at UCLA Medical Center.

“He was a hell of a guy,” Raiders receiver Jerry Porter said of Russell. “He just never found the strength to get going again after the all the trouble he got into.”

The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Russell, the No. 2 overall pick by Oakland in the 1997 draft, had a promising start in the NFL before substance abuse problems ruined his career. He had 28 1/2 sacks in five seasons with the Raiders, making the Pro Bowl in 1998 and 1999.

Vikings charged in boat scandal

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and three Minnesota Vikings teammates were charged with indecent, lewd and disorderly conduct for participating in a bawdy boat party that drew national attention.

Culpepper, currently on injured reserve, Bryant McKinnie, Fred Smoot and Moe Williams each were charged with three misdemeanors for their behavior aboard a boat on Lake Minnetonka, according to court papers.

If convicted, each player faces up to a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count.

NAACP chief defends McNabb

The chief executive officer of the NAACP criticized the president of its Philadelphia branch for racially charged comments made about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Bruce Gordon, who heads the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, issued a statement calling McNabb “a great quarterback, an excellent role model and a class act” and said he intended to apologize for denigrating remarks made by Philadelphia chapter president J. Whyatt Mondesire.

Mondesire, who also publishes the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, criticized the quarterback’s proclivity for passing in a Dec. 4 newspaper column.

He wrote that McNabb’s tendency to run the ball early in his career “not only confused defenses, it also thrilled Eagles fans,” and that abandoning that element “by claiming that ‘everybody expects black quarterbacks to scramble’ not only amounts to a breach of faith but also belittles the real struggles of black athletes who’ve had to overcome real racial stereotypecasting in addition to downright segregation.”

Vick removed from injury report

Michael Vick took all the snaps with the first-team offense, even though Atlanta had to practice outdoors during an ice storm that left much of Hall County without electrical power.

Coach Jim Mora, who listed Vick as probable with bruised ribs the day before, removed his quarterback from the team’s injury report.

Union wants Saints in New Orleans

Saints players say a recent meeting with NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw left them with the impression that they’ll most likely report to work at the team’s undamaged training headquarters in suburban New Orleans next season.

Upshaw met with Saints players in San Antonio and said he favored returning them to their training facility in Metairie and having them split their eight regular season home games between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., and the Louisiana Superdome, if possible, players said.

“That’s the feeling we got. It’s all subject to change,” cornerback Fred Thomas said. “He’s not the man who’ll make the decision. … They’re basically telling us that to give us some light at the end of the tunnel.”

League officials are focusing on Louisiana as the home for the Saints next season. They are waiting until early next year to make an announcement because they want to make sure recovery efforts take priority.

Notes

Linebacker Andra Davis signed a five-year contract extension as the rebuilding Cleveland Browns locked up their leading tackler and a team leader for the future. … Cincinnati rookie receiver Chris Henry was arrested on traffic and marijuana charges early Thursday morning but later practiced with the team. … The CBS Sports NFL pregame show scored a rating of 3.9, its highest regular-season rating since 1998, and beat its Fox counterpart for the first time on Sunday.

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