McFadden's toe injuries a pain for Raiders

Darren McFadden strolled through the Raiders locker room Thursday without missing a hitch, even though his left foot was encased in a protective boot. But that doesn't mean McFadden is getting any closer to returning to the lineup, and that's not good news for Oakland's struggling offense.

McFadden did not play in last week's loss to Baltimore and interim head coach Tom Cable was hopeful the extra rest would allow McFadden to heal in time to play in Sunday's home game against Atlanta. Instead, McFadden has not practiced this week, leaving him questionable at best to play against the Falcons.

It's the second turf toe injury the rookie running back has had to deal with. He suffered a similar injury to his right toe during a Week 2 win over Kansas City and was hobbled the following week in a loss against Buffalo.

The Raiders have tried resting their first-round pick but he apparently hurt himself again in the Oct. 19 overtime win against the New York Jets.

That's a serious concern for Oakland, which has the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing attack. The Raiders thrived running the ball early in the season but McFadden's injury has slowed the production on the ground.

After rushing for 252 yards and averaging 5.7 yards a carry through the first three games, McFadden has managed only 89 yards and a 3.9-yard average since.

Cable tried to sound optimistic Thursday when asked about McFadden's status for the Falcons game but added that the running back has to practice Friday if he has any hopes of playing against Atlanta.

"(McFadden's toe) does feel better but he's certainly gotta do something tomorrow," Cable said. "He's gotta go tomorrow."

The likelihood of that happening, however, isn't very good. While McFadden appeared to be over his original turf toe injury, the truth is those injuries are never fully healed until the offseason. One or two weeks off usually isn't enough.

The bad thing for the Raiders is that while they still have Justin Fargas and Michael Bush to lean on in the backfield, the offense is far less effective when McFadden is on the sidelines. He is the most explosive player Oakland has on that side of the ball, which forces defenses to play him differently than they do when Fargas or Bush -- straight-ahead power runners -- are in.

His 164 rushing yards against Kansas City are the most by any rookie running back in the NFL this season and the sixth-highest single-game total among all running backs. McFadden's 341 total rushing yards are 10th in the AFC, even though he sat out one game and has been limited in others.

After topping the 300-yard mark in total offense three of their first four games, the Raiders have cracked that barrier just once in the past three games.

Few teams in the NFL can afford to lose their first-round draft pick to an injury. In McFadden's case it rings especially true. Until he gets back on the field and remains healthy Oakland's offense, particularly the running game, will continue to suffer.

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