First came running back Rashad Jennings, then safety Charles Woodson. Now comes word from Darren McFadden that he, too, wants to keep playing for the Raiders beyond this season.
“I would love to be a Raider next year,” McFadden said Wednesday, shortly after he practiced for the first time since he hurt an ankle against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. “But, like I said, I can only focus on the things that I can control. I have to let everybody else handle that.”
Woodson said after the Raiders ugly loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday that, if anything, the way things went that day and of late make him even more certain that he wants to return next season.
Woodson is at the tail end of his NFL career, one destined to end with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He comes cheap, provides great leadership, mentors his teammates and seldom misses games.
McFadden, on the other hand, has missed 29 games in his six NFL seasons, all with the Raiders. He rushed seven times in the past seven games, primarily because hamstring and ankle injuries prevented him from playing.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has plenty of money to bring back any and all of his prospective free agents, of which there are many. Woodson seems like a slam dunk when you take into account everything he brings to the equation.
McFadden, meanwhile, is a risk-reward type of player. When he’s right — meaning, healthy — he has the versatility and talent to be one of the league’s best all-around backs.
Therein lies the rub. McFadden missed at least three games in every one of his six seasons with the Raiders, and he rushed for 1,000 yards or more only once. In fact, he rushed for 707 yards or fewer in his five other seasons.
For now, coach Dennis Allen said, Rashad Jennings is the starting running back. Jennings, too, said earlier this month that re-signing with the Raiders is his first choice.
That, by itself, might be enough for McKenzie to close the book on McFadden and move forward with Jennings and rookie Latavius Murray.
McKenzie certainly isn’t about to throw a ton of money at McFadden given his injury history. If anything, he might offer a contract light on years and heavy on incentives — playing time, touches, statistical goals achieved, etc.
McFadden has two more games to bolster his case, this Sunday against the San Diego Chargers and against the Denver Broncos in the regular-season finale.
“I would love to” showcase my talents these last two games, McFadden said. “That’s one of my things, finishing hard. I know once I’m out there playing hard, I know what I can do. So, I don’t let the other things creep into my mind.”
— Linebacker Miles Burris (ankle), left guard Lucas Nix (illness), defensive tackle Vance Walker (concussion), Woodson (ribs) and running back Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee) did not practice.
Allen said it “looks that way,” when asked if Walker is a ways off from returning.
— Terrelle Pryor started at quarterback for the Raiders against the Chargers the first time the teams played, Oct. 6. In many ways, that was Pryor’s best game as an NFL player.
No matter, it’s Matt McGloin who is getting the start this Sunday. Still, Chargers coach Mike McCoy said, the Chargers are preparing for Pryor and McGloin.
“Well, you always have a plan for both,” McCoy said. “You only have so many snaps in practice, but we’ve got a good plan in place through Wednesday obviously. And we’ll continue to build our plan the next two days. (Chargers defensive coordinator) John Pagano and the staff put a good plan together.”
— McGloin is fresh from a game in which he had four passes intercepted, failed to fall on a bad snap from center Stefen Wisniewski and played a key role in the Chiefs beating the Raiders 56-31.
He knows that without having to be reminded. And no one is going to accuse McGloin of taking a loss or substandard play lightly. Quite the contrary. His teammates say McGloin, like Pryor, is quite hard on himself.
“I don’t think words are really necessary,” McGloin said. “I don’t need someone to tell me, ‘Hey, pick it up,’ or anything like that. I am hard on myself sometimes, but that’s our approach as an offense.
“Everybody knows when they make mistakes. Everyone wants to be perfect. And that’s something I do and everybody does is strive to be the best that you can be. But guys do that. Obviously. the older guys that I look up to will pat me on the back of the helmet. They’ll tell me, ‘Hey, let’s get going here,’ every now and then. Like I said, as much as I know it, I do like it when they do it. It shows me that they care and they want to see me get better.”