ALAMEDA -- When he's healthy, he's one of the best backs in the league. When he's healthy.
Since Oakland made Darren McFadden the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, he has started more than 10 games in a season only twice, never starting more than 13 games. Still, in 57 career NFL games, he boasts a 4.3 yards-per-carry average.
Raider Nation wants to know what the two-time Doak Walker Award winner from Arkansas did this offseason to prepare himself for the gruel of another NFL season.
"I worked out hard to get in the best shape I've ever been in since I got into the league," McFadden said Thursday. "That's my main thing -- being in great health and great shape."
To the naked eye, McFadden looks a bit slighter than his listed weight of 218 pounds.
"I wouldn't say smaller, just more trimmed up," McFadden clarified. "We weighed in and did body fat percentage, and it feels good to get into shape real good.
"I'm looking a lot better this year."
His physical preparedness is one thing, and it will be truly revealed when players don the pads for training camp, but more is being asked of McFadden in his sixth NFL season with the Raiders.
"One thing we have addressed with him a little bit, and it's something we’ve talked about, is a leadership role on the team, helping that locker room and I’ve seen him do a nice job in that regard," head coach Dennis Allen said.
It might surprise you that McFadden has only one 1,000-yard rushing season in five attempts. It might also surprise you that McFadden is still just 25 years old.
The young veteran acknowledged that his propensity to make light of situations and smile with teammates could have impacted his effectiveness as a leader in the past, and he's looking to change that.
"I'm trying to be more of a vocal leader, instead of just going out there and leading by example," said McFadden. "Last year, guys would like to talk a lot. It might have been at the wrong time when I was cracking jokes. I’m just being more of a vocal leader and leading for the younger guys.”
As a leader, the team will look for McFadden to set the tone and establish a winning feel in the locker room. He's starting early.
"Guys not going to expect us to do anything," said McFadden, who is entering the final season of his six-year contract with Oakland. "But I'm sure we're going to surprise a lot of people this year."
If the Raiders' workhorse can stay healthy, they just might.
"You’ve seen a lot of glimpses," the running back said, "but I can promise you that you haven’t seen the best of Darren McFadden at all."