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Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell pleaded not guilty to a charge of illegal drug possession Tuesday in Alabama.

Russell, 24, is a former LSU star who was released by Oakland after being the No. 1 draft choice in 2007. He entered the plea in court in Mobile. He is charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, codeine syrup.

Authorities have said that he did not have a prescription for the drug and that he was arrested July 5 at his home as part of an undercover investigation.

His attorney, Donald Briskman, said in a phone interview that there were about nine or 10 people in the house and that he believes once all the evidence is known, Russell will be exonerated.

Russell, a prep star in Mobile, had no comment after his court appearance. He has been free on $2,500 bond.

Briskman said he asked for an early hearing in order for Russell to get the case behind him and renew his effort to play professional football. A hearing in his case is set for Aug. 11 to determine if there is enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury.

One of the NFL's biggest No. 1 draft busts, Russell completed just 52.1 percent of his passes in his career, with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and 15 lost fumbles. He won only seven of 25 starts.


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