Finally, McFadden Returns to Practice

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back Darren McFadden made his long-awaited return to practice Tuesday, though his status for Saturday's season opener against sixth-ranked Southern California remains doubtful.

Wearing a green No. 6 jersey instead of his traditional No. 5, McFadden smiled as he jogged in a zig-zag pattern with the other running backs during a drill early in practice.

The sophomore, who had been unable to practice this offseason because of a severe injury to the big toe on his left foot, didn't appear to be in pain or walk with a limp.

McFadden caught passes from Arkansas running backs coach Danny Nutt, joked with teammates and showed signs that he has progressed since a pin used to stabilize his injured toe was removed last Monday.

"It's good to see him out there working out. He's working hard," said sophomore Felix Jones, who has taken over as Arkansas' starting running back in McFadden's absence. "It's just a good sight to see. ... I'm glad to see him out there in full pads with us."

Nutt said McFadden had gotten some reps following a few practices, but Tuesday was by far the most extensive work the sophomore has done since injuring his big toe in a fight outside a Little Rock nightclub on July 29.

"He's still a little sore," Nutt said, adding that McFadden still limps when he walks in regular shoes. "He's not stopping real quick (on the field), kind of slows down. But it's a kind of day-by-day thing."

Tuesday was the final practice the Razorbacks will hold in full pads before they open the season at 7:45 p.m. Saturday against USC at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

But Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he'll need to see more from McFadden before he feels comfortable enough to put last year's Southeastern Conference freshman of the year in a game.

"I'd have to get a total 100 percent OK from (Arkansas athletic trainer) Dean (Weber) and the doctors, make sure you're not taking any unnecessary chances and just go from there," Nutt said.

Houston Nutt said that while McFadden is "progressing well" and "doing better each day he comes out," his status for the season opener remains doubtful.

McFadden, who was not made available to reporters Tuesday, said last week that it hurt even when he bent his toe. As a result, he didn't sound optimistic about his chances of being ready for the season opener.

"I know I'm going to be back at some point this year," McFadden said. "Right now, I just don't know when."

Meanwhile, Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said Tuesday that he'd be "tickled to death" if McFadden and quarterback Casey Dick (back injury) were both back in time for the SEC opener at Vanderbilt on Sept. 16.

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