OAKLAND -- That same explosiveness was back. So was that power.And while it was only on display for one offensive series, really, that was enough.Darren McFadden appeared in a game for the Raiders for the first time since Oct. 23, when he suffered what turned out to be a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his right foot, and he did not look like he had lost a step. McFadden, who has battled both real and imagined injury issues his entire NFL career, carried the ball twice, picked up 20 yards and took a screen pass 18 yards before becoming a spectator. They were the first three plays of the game.Point made. Even if the Raiders would score none in a 3-0 defeat to Dallas in both team's exhibition opener."We got him a couple of touches early and he was able to make some explosive gains and that's what we anticipate out of him," said rookie coach Dennis Allen. "We threw one screen to him and he busted out on a run pretty good, so I think he's an explosive play maker and we have to find ways to get him the ball and give him an opportunity to be explosive for us."It was the first time McFadden appeared in the same backfield as quarterback Carson Palmer."Hes pretty special," Palmer said. "Just great to have him in the huddle. Great to see him on the field. Just excited to keep working with him."We want to feed him the ball. Were going to obviously feature him in this offense. Were pretty banged up at that spot right now with (Mike) Goodson down and Taiwan (Jones) down. When we get those guys back were going to be really explosive. We just need to get them back and healthy, and theyre going to be great to give Darren a breather and give him a break from time to time. Its just good to finally play against something else. Well watch the film and move on."McFadden was not available for comment after the game and, of course, many observers think he should now get the LaDainian Tomlinson treatment the rest of the preseason and be put in bubble wrap for meaningless exhibition games."We're going to take it one game at a time and see where we're at," Allen said. "We got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished with him in the game, which was (to) get him a few touches early, let him get bounced around a little bit, and see what he can do and then get him out of the game and get ready for next week."We'll evaluate next week as we go into the game and see how much we want to play him next week."
NAPA – Gareon Conley ran Sunday for the first time in two months. The Raiders first-round cornerback remains on the physically unable to perform list with a shin injury originally suffered during a June minicamp. He wants to get back on the field. He just isn’t ready yet.
Missing training camp certainly sets back a dynamic cover man, but it doesn’t mean Conley can’t make an instant impact. While he hasn’t been seen on the practice field, the Raiders have been encouraged that Conley’s proving a quick learner and an inquisitive mind.
“We’d love to have him out there right now,” Raiders assistant head coach – defense John Pagano said. “When he’s out there, he’ll be out there. Until then, I think he got the reps he needed in OTAs. His mental game has picked up tremendously. He’s always asking questions, even more. It’s hard for a lot of injured players in this league to stand there on the sidelines and be able to just watch and look out there, but he’s always asking. He’s getting those mental reps.
"When he’s able to come back, he’ll be at a fast level. Injuries are part of the game, you deal with it and you just have to make sure, as a rookie, you’re taking those mental reps.”
Conley has been on the practice field with his position group most days, with a play sheet in hand to follow along. He has also lifted weights the past two days and worked on the JUGS machine Wednesday.
Nearly a month remains until the regular season starts, leaving Conley time to get back in the mix.
-- Cornerback Sean Smith took some reps with the first unit on Wednesday, though most of them came as an outside corner in the nickel package. TJ Carrie slid inside in those instances, and generally remained outside in the base defense.
Smith had his second straight quality practice, a sign he might be rebounding after a rough week where he practiced with the second unit and didn’t fare well at Arizona. The Raiders hope he can build on good work and be steadier in coverage.
“I think he’s growing every day,” Pagano said. “There’s always highs and lows in this game. You don’t want to make it, as we term, inconsistent. We’re always looking for the consistency. It’s how you build. It’s how you learn. It’s how you come off those things. There’s always room for improvement in the backend, in the front, all across our defense. There’s guys we’re asking them to go out there and make plays. Has he been improving at practice? Yeah. Then our job is to take that practice stuff and take it to the game field and have that consistency and that carry over to those types of games.”
-- Offensive line coach Mike Tice praised Ian Silberman’s play in a position switch to center. He has seen extensive reps there in camp, including a massive amount in the preseason opener at Arizona. Silberman will play some left guard in coming weeks to establish versatility and give him a shot to make the team.
-- Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow played with the first unit in sub packages, as the Raiders continue searching for coverage options in those personnel groups.
-- Jon Feliciano worked with the first unit on Wednesday at left guard. He will be a primary backup at every interior line spot. He is working back from a knee injury that kept him out until last week.
NAPA – Donald Penn won’t step foot in the Napa Valley Marriott this year. Unless something truly shocking happens, the Raiders will break training camp Thursday afternoon without seeing the Pro Bowl left tackle on the practice field.
Penn wants a new contract, one worth more than the $5.8 million base salary he was scheduled to make under his current deal. Penn has outperformed that pact, and is willing to wait for a new one.
It’s been 20 days with no movement.
That has forced offensive line coach Mike Tice to make other plans. He has to move on with the players he had in camp, even with the virtual certainty Penn will return before the regular season starts.
Marshall Newhouse is the Raiders left tackle. Vadal Alexander is on the right. That’s who Tice has to work with. He has to prep them for the regular season opener Sept. 10.
“Where I’m at right now is I have to get us ready to go out and beat Tennessee,” Tice said after Wednesday’s practice. “So right now, I have Marshall on the left and I have Vadal on the right and I have David doing a little bit more each day, playing both sides. That’s what we have. I can’t sit here and wonder when DP is going to come back. Right now I’ve moved forward with Marshall is on the left and Vadal is on the right and David is swinging.
"That’s reality right now. I can’t think that there’s going to be something else there until it’s there.”
When Penn eventually shows up to work at the Raiders complex in Alameda, Tice will add him to the mix. The Raiders have now had plenty of time to prepare for an instance in which their Pro Bowl tackle is not physically able to perform.
“Injuries happen during the season and you have to have a plan to have a player ready to play at each position and sometimes multiple players ready at the same position,” Tice said. “With Donald not here yet, we’re able to have Marshall over there. He’s done a nice job. He’s gotten better. The challenge you have with a veteran guy that comes in, he’s been coached by other coaches to do things a different way and it takes time for a veteran to learn the ways to do things the way that we want to do them as Raiders. That’s probably the biggest challenge.”
Penn isn’t the only offensive lineman to miss time. David Sharpe and Jylan Ware have missed some time with injury. Kelechi Osemele has taken some time off this camp. Jon Feliciano only returned from the physically unable to perform list last week. Tice has mixed and matched just to get through practice.
“We’ve had some days where we’ve had to make it happen with 10 or 11,” Tice said. “When you have that, you get the ability, you have the ability, you have the opportunity to develop your depth. In the long run, it’s actually a good thing.”