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McFadden likely in last days with Raiders

The SportsXchange

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Darren McFadden may end his Oakland Raiders career on the field after all.

The Raiders running back practiced Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium after having missed the previous two games with an ankle injury.

McFadden has played in only one of the last six games, gaining 13 yards on five carries against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving before incurring the ankle injury.

It's a minor surprise, with the thought being McFadden would simply finish out his six-year, $60 million contract on the bench and then head into free agency.

McFadden, in fact, wouldn't rule out coming back to the Raiders, although the his disappointing performance over the last three seasons and injury history suggests general manager Reggie McKenzie will want to move on.

"I would love to be a Raider next year but I can only focus on things I can control," McFadden said.

McFadden is currently the Raiders' third-leading rusher with 365 yards on 103 carries, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Rashad Jennings leads the Raiders with 679 yards and a 4.6 average and six touchdowns, followed by quarterback Terrelle Pryor with 527 yards.

In terms of his Raiders career, McFadden hasn't been a bust after being the No. 4 overall pick in 2008, but he has been a disappointment.

Only during a 20-game stretch in 2010 and 2011 did McFadden resemble the explosive two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up at Arkansas. With Hue Jackson as head coach, McFadden had 1,773 yards and a 5.3 yards-per-carry average in 20 games. He was leading the league in rushing in 2011 before a Lisfranc injury ended his season in the seventh game.

That McFadden hasn't been seen since, languishing in offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone blocking system with 707 yards and a 3.3 average last season. Knapp was replaced by Greg Olson, whose first order of business was to restore the power and gap schemes that McFadden favored.

Instead, other than a 19-carry, 129-yard effort against Jacksonville in Week 2, the old McFadden has either been hurt or ineffective.

Asked if he looked at it as a lost season, McFadden said, "I feel that way but at the same time there's nothing I can do about that. That time is gone. I can only move forward and deal with the things that are in front of me."

McFadden's teammates for the most part still look at him as the same talent who excelled in 2010 and 2011 rather than the back who hasn't been able to get untracked for two years.

"It means the world to us, to have our best player on the field," fullback Marcel Reece said. "You can't replace a Darren McFadden. You don't replace a Darren McFadden."

Quarterback Matt McGloin said any speculation that McFadden wasn't interested in returning this season was in error based on how McFadden worked to get ready.

"He's a hard worker, a great guy to be around," McGloin said. "He sits in our meeting room before his starts, so you see how hard he works and how bad he wants to get back.

"Hopefully we can get him back out there and it will give us a lot more confidence. Our running backs have done a great job but it would be great to get Darren back in that mix, too."
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