Throughout much of his time with the Oakland Raiders, running back Darren McFadden has been off the field for one reason or another. His injury list is as long as a San Jose phonebook, and it has left Raider fans disappointed and wondering what might have been for the team, which is an entirely different beast with a healthy and effective McFadden working his magic. He signed a one-year deal with Oakland in the offseason, and CSN Bay Area caught up with him to discuss it.
"Raider Nation has been incredibly loyal to me over the past six years, and I want to be loyal to them," McFadden said when asked about his motivations for returning to the team. "They've been with me through ups and downs. I wanted to come back and give them the very best of Darren McFadden. It's what they deserve, and it's what they should have been getting all these years."
It's obvious from these comments that McFadden feels exactly the same way as Raider fans do about his career and health. He feels it deeply when he is out of action, and he feels he owes the team and the Raider Nation for the missed production. One could argue that we have already seen the best of Darren McFadden, insofar as we witnessed his 2010 and 2011 seasons when he was one of the very best backs in all of football. McFadden is still young enough at 26 years old to carve out a very nice career if he can stay healthy.
"It’s a hard thing to go through because you want to help the team so bad," McFadden said. "Nobody wants to be healthy and productive more than me. I want to help win games for Raider Nation. But things happen sometimes and you have to stay positive. You know what you’re capable of, and you can’t listen to things that are said about you. You have to stay focused and keep faith in yourself through tough times."
Raider fans do know what McFadden is capable of, which is why it stings so much when he is sitting on the bench. The team has taken a different approach to his conditioning this offseason, devoting more time to maintenance than hardcore strength training, which is probably good for someone with a reputation for freak injuries and fragility, deserved or undeserved. McFadden's game really shines when he does not have to carry the team's entire offensive load by himself (see: Bush, Michael) and with the addition of former Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew to the Raider attack that will certainly be the case this season. If Latavius Murray can come back strong from injury this year, all the better.
One thing is for certain, and that is if Darren McFadden can't finish this season healthy, it won't be because he doesn't care. If, however, McFadden regains his 2010 form and re-emerges as a top player in the league, it could propel the Raiders to playoff contention. When that happens, nobody will feel better than Darren McFadden.