By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 at 2:13 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Running back Darren McFadden watched the latter part of practice without a protective boot on his right foot Wednesday. On the sideline isn’t where Raiders coach Hue Jackson wants to see McFadden, but at least it’s more than he has done for the past three weeks or so.
“I seen Darren McFadden without a boot, standing out here with his teammates today for the first time in a long time,” Jackson said. “So, to me, that’s huge progress.”
Maybe so, but it’s still a long way from watching to practicing and playing in a game.
Jackson said he still isn’t sure when McFadden will be able to practice or play in a game for the first time since Oct. 23, when McFadden suffered a midfoot sprain.
“I’m seeing a lot of progress, yeah,” Jackson said. “It was good (seein him). It was good. Again, not where we need to be yet, not there. But we’re working at it and, like I said, he’s getting closer to being back out here than not being back out there.”
McFadden missed almost all of the Oct. 23 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and all of the games against the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers.
It’s a safe bet to expect McFadden to miss Sunday’s game against the Vikings, as well. That means a third straight start for Michael Bush is a strong likelihood.
“It’s cool getting the ball,” Bush said, “but it’s what I’m supposed to do. Running the ball. Like I told the coach, ‘Just feed the stud,’ I told him that last week. ‘Give me the ball and let’s see what we can do.’ ”
Bush has done plenty, thank you. He has rushed for 352 yards and added 130 yards receiving during McFadden’s absence.
That, in part, makes it easier on Jackson to give McFadden all the time he needs to get over his foot injury. McFadden hasn’t been available to the media since his injury, but Bush said he and McFadden speak on a regular basis.
“He’s excited (for me),” Bush said. “We talk all the time, BBM chat, stuff like that. I see him in here. He came out to practice today. When he’s doing a great job, I’m happy for him, and when I’m doing a great job, it’s the same. We never doubt each other. It’s one of those things when he does good, I want him to do good, and vice versa.”
PETERSON OR RUSSELL?
That’s the call the Raiders faced in 2007, when they held the No. 1 pick of the NFL draft. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, wide receiever Calvin Johnson or running back Adrian Peterson?
As it turned out, of course, the Raiders selected Russell out of LSU. Johnson went to the Detroit Lions at No. 2. The Vikings selected Peterson at No. 7.
Russell flamed out after three disastrous seasons. Johnson now is the league’s best receiver. Peterson is regarded by many as the league’s best running back.
Raiders managing general partner Al Davis wanted Russell. Then-coach Lane Kiffin wanted Johnson. Score one for Kiffin, which is something you don’t hear often.
Peterson has rushed for at least 1,298 yards in every one of his four full seasons. He has 846 yards through nine games this season and is on pace for 1,504. Overall, he has 6,628 yards and 62 touchdowns in 70 games.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he views Peterson as the best back in the league. Peterson’s power separates him from the other top backs.
“I’ve been around some great backs,” Frazier said. “He does so many things so well. The one thing that kind of separates him from a lot of guys is the way he can run with such power and authority but can run away from you as well and he can make you miss, and the determination that he runs with.
“There are times that defenders really don’t want to tackle Adrian Peterson. They’ll hope that someone else gets in the way before they get to him. He strikes fear in opposing defenders in the way he runs.”
Peterson said Darren McFadden is one of the few backs that he enjoys watching. Yet, he still views himself as the best back in the NFL.
“In order to be the best to ever play, you have to believe it first,” Peterson said. “Other than that, you’re cheating yourself. … I definitely feel that way. It’s not something that I just force all the time or I’m just cocky about or I’m humble about it. I bust my butt during the offseason to make sure that I’m going out and I’m showing that when I step on the field on Sunday.”
The Raiders get their first crack at Peterson on Sunday. He was injured when the Vikings played the Raiders in 2007, two games after Peterson rushed for 296 yards.
Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said he would take McFadden as his running back. However, Peterson has earned the right to be called the best back for what he has accomplished.
“When you look at everything, he has good enough hands, he can run that thing, he can get the 1-yarder, he can push the pile, he can take it the distance,” Kelly said. “I give it to him because he is the biggest (back), with that much speed. Chris Johnson? Elusive. I’d probably take D-Mac over every last one of them, but A.P. earned it.”
NFC NORTH FRONT AND CENTER
The Raiders played four divisional games, three of their four games against AFC East teams and both their interconference games the first nine games of the season.
Now it’s time for them to shift into NFC North mode, given they play all four NFC North teams within a five-game span. They play the Vikings on Sunday, the Chicago Bears on Nov. 27, the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 11 and the Detriot Lions on Dec. 18. The lone break comes with a game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 4.
JARED ALLEN ON RECORD-SETTING PACE
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen brings a league-leading 13 1/2 sacks to Sunday’s game. That places him on pace for 24 sacks, which would break the single-season record.
He has at least one-half of one sack in all nine games this season and 11 straight, dating to last season. He figures to be matched up against Raiders second-year left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer.
“I’d have to say he’s taken it up a notch,” Frazier said. “To have the number of sacks he has in nine games, that’s quite a pace to be on. He’s playing with so much energy and focus, he’s making it tough for opposing linemen. We’re the beneficiaries of that. He’s playing some great football, and we hope that will continue.”
Jackson said the Raiders are well aware of Allen’s ability to disrupt the passing game and wreak havoc at any time during a game.
“He never stops,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t take a play off. He works at it. It’s important to him; he wants to be the best, he has a burning desire to be one of the best at what he does, and he is. That’s why he doesn’t get stopped.
“He’s an issue for our football team. We’ve played some really good pass rushers. … We’ll see what he is, but we respect his talent, what he brings to the table. But, at the same time, we have to make sure we get him blocked.”
VIKINGS LIKE HOME COOKING
The Vikings are only 1-3 at home this season. However, they lost those three games by a combined 13 points, and none by more than six. Two of their four losses away from the Metrodome were by 29 and 38, respectively.
Not that the Raiders are very worried. They are 3-1 away from the Coliseum, with their lone loss coming in Buffalo on Sept. 18, 38-35. The Raiders squandered a 21-3 halftime lead in that game.
“I just think, we pack a good team, we come with the right attitude, our focus is good,” Jackson said. “The guys handle themselves well on the road, and they do a good job.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer has played in the Metrodome before, as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“You just really have to have a certain level of focus,” Palmer said. “It’s difficult going into that environment — I’ve played there before, when their record was a lot better than it is right now. It’s a very loud, very hostile place to play.
“But you don’t need to do anything special. That’s always kind of the main thing, just go out and play offense the way we play, play defense the way we play. You don’t need to make spectacular plays, you don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary. You just need to play football.”
Jackson said he is taking measures to get his players ready for a game in one of the louder venues in the NFL.
“We try to simulate it out here but, obviously, it’s not the real thing because that’s a dome,” Jackson said. “Things bounce off the dome. But we got to handle it the right way. That’s something I talked with the team about this morning.
“We can’t have excuses, why we’re going to jump offsides or have illegal procedure penalties. That can’t exist. We’ve got to handle the elements, we’ve got to take care of that, and we’ve got to go play good football.”
LECHLER AND JANIKOWSKI IN THE LEAD
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler are leading the fan portion of the Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.
Fan voting accounts for one-third of the selection process. Players and coaches also get one-third of the vote.
Lechler has been selected to six Pro Bowls. Janikowski still is waiting for his first selection.
JACKSON DEFENDS PALMER TRADE
Without prompting, Jackson felt the need to defend the Raiders’ trade for Palmer when asked about the difficulty of Palmer assuming a leadership role.
“I know everybody within this organization has been criticized about the move, about making that decision to bring him here,” Jackson said. “That’s fine. Everybody has their opinion, and I get that. At the end of the day, all those characteristics that you guys have seen him exhibit is why he’s here. That’s what you go out and get that guy because of (his leadership).”
Jackson added that Palmer was the right guy for the situation, in part, because of the rapport they had from their three years together with the Cincinnati Bengals and at Southern California.
He is convinced that Palmer is succeeding whereas someone without that kind of rapport would have struggled if thrust into the same situation, taking over in the middle of the season after an injury to Jason Campbell.
“There’s a lot that goes into making decisions and why you make them, and I know without a doubt we made the right decision for the right situation for this football team,” Jackson said. “Obviously, that’s proven to be true. It’s not totally proven yet, but we got seven more games to prove this to be the right decision for this football team.”
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