by Matt Kawahara
NAPA -- It started to hit Darren McFadden on Saturday night. Injured for the final nine games of last season, busy this offseason rehabbing and fielding more questions about his durability, the Raiders' running back looked ahead to tonight's preseason opener against Dallas and realized: "I'm really anxious to get out there."
"I'm very excited about it," McFadden said. "It's like a rookie all over again. Just anxious and eager to get out there."
How long he'll be out there remains to be seen, but head coach Dennis Allen said that McFadden is "going to get his plays and his touches." This comes with a wave of firsts: First glimpse of McFadden and quarterback Carson Palmer in the same backfield, first look at McFadden since his Lisfranc injury last season, first peek (most likely) at McFadden running behind the Raiders' new zone blocking scheme.
The foot injury derailed a season in which McFadden was among the league's rushing leaders through the Raiders' first seven games, averaging 5.4 yards a carry. He has been treated with care in training camp -- though when he has carried the ball in scrimmages he has looked potent as ever -- but said he won't bring any doubts into his first game action in nearly 10 months.
"For me, I feel like I'm at home when I'm on the football field, so whether I get a lot of carries out there or not, I feel good," McFadden said. "I feel confident about my abilities to go out there and play football. It doesn't matter whether I get a lot of carries or not."
More pertinent, he said, is simply tasting contact again. The Raiders have seldom gone live in practice, and when they did hold a 12-play session where defenders took ball-carriers to the ground last week, McFadden was held out.
"It's always getting those first couple of hits, just to get the jitters out of you," McFadden said. "That's one of the main things."
After McFadden, the Raiders are a little thin right now. Taiwan Jones (hamstring) and Mike Goodson (neck) will not play against the Cowboys, Allen said, meaning Lonyae Miller will be the next man up and fullbacks Marcel Reece and Rashawn Jackson might both line up at tailback.
Miller, who played four games with the Cowboys in 2010 and signed with the Raiders last season but didn't appear in any games, is listed at 6-feet, 216 pounds and offers a different running style than the Raiders' other backs.
"He's a little bit more of a downhill, pounder type guy," said head coach Dennis Allen. "He doesn't have quite the same explosiveness as those other guys, but he's been a consistent runner. What I've seen and what he's done in the zone scheme is, he's understood what his reads are, he's made the proper reads, got his pads downhill and made some yards."