Sept. 13, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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CSNCalifornia.comDENVER -- This was new but familiar territory for Darren McFadden.For the first time in his four-year NFL career, the Raiders' electric running back would be playing a regular season game without the benefit of at least a few preseason carries. And yet, McFadden was making his 2011 debut on the field of his greatest individual accomplishment.So forgive him if he admits he had a few nerves. Rather, celebrate it. And then admire the work he put in on the night, helping the Raiders to a 23-20 defeat of Denver at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in both teams' season opener under the bright lights of Monday Night Football.McFadden was a blur in rushing for 150 yards on 22 carries, including a spirit-sapping 47-yard burst up the middle to the Denver 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter."Once you get that first hit out the way, you get the butterflies out your stomach," McFadden said. "That was something that happened for me."Truly, the last real harmful contact McFadden experienced was on Aug. 3, when he suffered a fractured lower left eye orbital in a blitz pickup drill against linebacker Quentin Groves in training camp.So McFadden got the LaDainian Tomlinson treatment -- no preseason carries, no preseason worries of additional injury."You can just imagine if the guy had played in a few preseason games," said Raiders rookie coach Hue Jackson, "exactly what he would have been doing."Meh, he did it in Denver. Again.In last season's 59-14 record-setting rout of the Broncos here, McFadden rushed for a career-high 165 yards and scored a career-best four touchdowns, with three on the ground.Monday night, though, he did not score as Champ Bailey tripped him up on the one-yard line on his long run. One play later, Jason Campbell scored on a quarterback sneak.But it showed just how integral McFadden is to the Raiders offense as a playmaker. Meaning, he's the most important part.Just don't say it to the humble McFadden, who was shaken up late in the first half after being taken down by his helmet on an unnecessary roughness penalty on Robert Ayers, but obviously shook it off."My offensive line was doing a great job," he said. "They were opening holes up, so for a running back, you just want to hit those holes running."You have to take pride in running the ball. It might start out slow. You get one, two yards here or there but eventually, the big one's going to come."Again, he's being modest. McFadden went 9 yards around the left end the first time he touched the ball. And credit Ayers and Von Miller for giving McFadden his first hit and tackle of the 2011 season and, yes, waking him up."It felt great just to get it over with," McFadden said of his first hit, "and get ready for the next one."Surrounded by a crush of reporters in the locker room, McFadden was asked if the preseason layoff had any effect on him."I guess that's for y'all to decide," he said with a laugh and a drawl.Pressed for his thoughts, McFadden relented."I feel like I did a pretty good job tonight," he said with a wide grin, "so I guess it didn't affect me too much."Different but the same. Just like McFadden's game.
Sept. 13, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE