KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A revealing picture illustrating how two AFC West franchises prepare for the future unfolds today when the Oakland Raiders play Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium.

Set-Up: You have two teams going nowhere who should be looking at the young players on

their roster as they start preparing for 2008. Reality: Only one team will be looking forward.

The Chiefs will be starting rookies Kolby Smith at tailback and Dwayne Bowe at wide receiver, a most intriguing dynamic considering Smith was Michael Bush's one-time backup at Louisville and Bowe was one of JaMarcus Russell's key receiving targets at LSU.

But while Smith and Bowe will be on the field learning what it's like to play in the NFL, Bush and Russell will sit. Maybe you can rationalize the Russell situation, but the turn of events with Bush is, well, pretty bush. Ridiculous, in fact.

Once again, Raiders paranoia has gotten in the way of Raiders progress. Wednesday, theteam placed Bush on the physically unable to perform list for the rest of the season, even though he had worked diligently to prepare himself to play the past several weeks.

By all indications from coach Lane Kiffin and several Raiders players, Bush was more than ready to go. He was healthy. He knew the playbook. He was excited about getting his first chance to run the ball in a live game in 14 months. It looked as if it was going to happen, too.

But then, typical penthouse paranoia pulled the plug on it.


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To make room for Bush, the Raiders were going to have to let go of a running back, either mega-bitter LaMont Jordan or ultra-baffled Dominic Rhodes. In short, two guys who appear to have no future with the team and don't seem to want to be Raiders anymore.

But no, couldn't do that. Why? Because Oakland is playing Kansas City and Denver in back-to-back games these next two weeks, and to release either veteran tailback would have allowed the Chiefs or Broncos not only to snap up the waived back but also to turn him around and run him against the Raiders. Not that such a development was inevitable, but this is how Al Davis thinks.

In a competitive situation, maybe such rationale would have made sense. Maybe. But at this point, when you're 2-8 and you've lost 17 consecutive division games, is such cloak-and-dagger logic really even relevant?

No. It's silly. Who the hell cares if the Chiefs or Broncos picked up Jordan or Rhodes? Neither of them is playing for Oakland. What delusional mind envisions them running rampant for Kansas City or Denver?

Well, we know the answer to that question. The man upstairs in the jumpsuit, the man whose hatred of the Chiefs and Broncos gets in the way of common sense ... and a real rebuilding strategy for his own team.

While he didn't come right out and say it, Kiffin pretty clearly wasn't on board with the decision to shelve Bush. Kiffin spouted the company line about not wanting AFC West rivals to claim one of their released players, but in the same breath admitted the move might set Bush back both physically and emotionally.

"Sure, oh yeah, especially since he had looked good and done some things," he said. "You work your way back, and it's a long time before he gets to play again now. So I'm sure he was upset with that. But it is what it is."

Right, it is what it is ... another Raiders bad call. It would have been something to give fans a peek into the Oakland locker room Wednesday after the Bush decision. They could have seen Jordan sporting the sour face of a man who yearned to be anywhere else. They could have heard Rhodes, engaging reporters once again about not being able to understand why isn't playing more.

And Bush? Gone entirely. Never made an appearance. Who knows, he might have been off somewhere sobbing or grumbling about all his efforts gone for naught, shot down on an inane technicality. At least one of his fellow tailbacks was feeling for him.

"Bush is a good person, a good dude, and he has been working hard to get himself ready to play," said Rhodes. "But it's going to be two years now that he doesn't get to step on the field, and I know he was really looking forward to getting his shot to show people what he can do."

Sort of like Rhodes himself, a total waste of money and a roster spot the way the Raiders have utilized him. But that's another story.

As for Russell, the sit-and-wait saga continues. Is he ready, isn't he ready? All we know is that he's been with the team for 11 weeks, absorbing the offense and maintaining he's ready whenever the Raiders call him. Maybe he doesn't have everything down, but as he noted this week in a perceptibly impatient tone, "You can't learn everything. But you can learn on the run and see how things go. I've been in similar situations, so I'd rather be out there."

At least Russell still has a chance. No such luck for Bush, who'll have to watch his onetime backup get his shot instead. Who wouldn't sob or grumble at that?

Carl Steward can be reached at (510) 293-2451 or by e-mail at

csteward@bayareanewsgroup.com.