McFadden won't return kicks in preseason

A broken bone in Tyvon Branch's right hand will force the Raiders to find a new kick returner for the next few weeks. One thing's certain: It won't be Darren McFadden.

McFadden rushed for 48 yards on 12 carries in his Oakland debut but any thoughts of him playing on special teams in the preseason like did in college now that Branch is out were quickly shot down by head coach Lane Kiffin.

"We've had him back there in practice (but) in preseason games to put him back there would be a little dangerous," Kiffin said Saturday, a day after the Raiders beat the San Francisco 49ers 18-6 in the preseason opener for both teams. "I don't think it's something I'd do in the preseason."

Johnnie Lee Higgins, who scored on a 53-yard punt return in the second quarter against the 49ers to spark Oakland's win, will get a shot at replacing Branch. The team will also consider Rashad Baker, Chris Johnson and some of their young wide receivers.

Branch is scheduled to undergo surgery early next week to repair the broken thumb he suffered in the win over San Francisco. He'll be fitted with a protective cast which will prevent him from returning kicks but Kiffin said the rookie safety will play against Tennessee next week.

Other highlights from Kiffin's conference call:

· Quarterback JaMarcus Russell threw only five pass attempts in his brief appearance against the 49ers, completing two for 13 yards. Hardly the type of big numbers fans were looking for out of their franchise quarterback but Kiffin says not to be concerned.

"He'll play more next week so he'll throw more in general," Kiffin said. "Part of that is the game plan and part of that is how the game's going. It wasn't by design for him to have so few attempts but we knew he wasn't going to play much."

A year ago Kiffin made it a point to say that the Raiders were not a team that could win if it had to rely on the pass. He reiterated that again Sunday.

"I'm not confident in that yet. Our first unit didn't play that long and I don't know yet that we can all of sudden be a pass-happy team and throw ball all over place," Kiffin said. "With a right tackle that was injured part of last year, with a new left tackle, not much depth, there‘s no part of me that can tell you we‘d be able to hange right now from where we were last year."

· Running back Louis Rankin, who broke off a 72-yard run in the second half and finished with a game-high 91 yards, is not a surprise to anyone who's attended one of the Raiders' training camp workouts. The rookie out of Washington seems to get loose for a long run at least once a day and has been one of the early stars in camp.

Unfortunately Rankin is playing a position where Oakland needs the least amount of help. With Justin Fargas, McFadden and Michael Bush the Raiders don't have much room for anyone else.

Still Kiffin said Rankin was impressive even if his long run came against San Francisco's backups.

"You can only play who you get put in against," Kiffin said. "He did a good job. He had a few special teams plays for us as well. It's a tough unit for him to crack. It's similar to what Adimchinobi Echemandu went through last year. He was the second-leading rusher in the AFC and we had to cut him."

· Kiffin praised the Raiders run defense, particularly tackle Tommy Kelly and linebacker Thomas Howard, pointing out that both men made plays at the line of scrimmage.

"That was something we knew we had to improve," Kiffin said.

· Terdell Sands recovered a fumble for the Raiders but was also called for a personal foul after a late hit on a San Francisco player.

"The film doesn't show it as clear as we'd like it to be but we knew it was late and he knew it was late," Kiffin said. "He said right away that it was a bad decision, it was all his fault. It's good for all our guys to learn from."

· The Raiders resume training camp in Napa with two practices on Monday. The team will hold a solo workout on Tuesday and another two-a-day on Wednesday before ending camp and flying to Tennessee on Thursday.


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