The Raiders were 4-2 when Darren McFadden was healthy, and as good as replacement Michael Bush has been at times, they are 3-5 since McFadden got hurt on the second play of the game against Kansas City on Oct. 23.
McFadden was averaging 5.4 yards per carry and not only kept opposing defenses honest (and scared), but also kept Oakland's 27th-ranked defense off the field.
Which is why there was a buzz Tuesday when McFadden took the field shortly after practice started. After missing 57 days with a mid-foot sprain, McFadden walked to the far end of the field and started jogging with a trainer.
And that is big news after weeks of coach Hue Jackson saying McFadden was "closer to returning than not."
"He was moving around, so that's a good thing," Jackson said Tuesday. "We can't run from that. I told you I'm not hiding him, that's for sure. He's out here running around a little bit, and we'll see where we are as we continue to move forward."
Two weeks ago, McFadden tried to jog and Jackson said, "He wasn't ready." Now, the coach will wait to see the update this morning on McFadden and receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), who was jogging with McFadden.
"We just want to make sure he's totally where he needs to be before we put him out there," Jackson said. "We have to be very careful with that. This guy is very valuable to the organization and to this football team. We don't want to do anything that's going to jeopardize his career or his opportunity to play."
McFadden, it turns out, has a Lisfranc sprain - which involves the joint - as opposed to a generic mid-foot injury. Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub underwent season-ending surgery in November because of a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, but McFadden didn't need surgery.
When ESPN's Stephania Bell, a physical therapist who reports on NFL injuries, heard that diagnosis two weeks ago, she said it was "hard to imagine" McFadden returning this regular season.
"It is important that full healing occur in order to restore normal gait and prevent future problems," Bell said.
McFadden's return to the backfield next week or next year would restore some big-play ability.
Oakland leads the NFL with 20 runs of at least 20 yards but had gone 101 straight carries without one until fullback Marcel Reece broke off a 26-yarder Sunday. (It was a 56-yarder before Detroit successfully challenged that Reece had stepped out of bounds.)
Bush has 841 yards on 214 carries (3.9 average) this season, not to mention 381 yards receiving, but former Raiders running back Marcus Allen said defenses can cheat against the pass with Bush taking the ball instead of McFadden.
Bush "just doesn't have the explosiveness" and ability to hit the edge that McFadden does, Allen told NationalFootballAuthority.com.
"McFadden, before he was injured, was a legitimate threat to score on every play," Allen said. "He can go the distance on any play, and that's what defenses have to pay a lot of attention to. Anytime you have a threat like that back there, you usually put eight in the box, which opens up the passing game."
That being said, Bush does do particularly well against the Chiefs, this week's opponent, whom McFadden will definitely miss. Bush has run 86 times for 497 yards (5.8 average) and two touchdowns in six career appearances against Kansas City, including a 137-yard effort in a 31-10 win there - without McFadden - Jan. 2 to close out the 2010 season.
"I personally like playing in their stadium," Bush said. "Their fans are always loud and against you and hostile, and I love it."
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