Programming note: For comprehensive Raiders coverage, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6 p.m., 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
ALAMEDA -- Running back Latavius Murray has never taken more than four carries in an NFL game. He has just 14 in his professional career. His last effort was truly dynamic, enough to give Raider Nation pause.
He made his mark with 112 yards and two touchdowns on four carries in a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, showing acceleration, power and breakaway straight-line speed.
Murray provided something positive in this dark season, and this team and its fan base want to know if he can be the feature back of the future.
That’s why it was big news when he passed the NFL concussion protocol and was cleared to play Sunday against the 49ers.
[NEWS: Murray cleared to play]
All that hope, wrapped into such a small sample size.
“I love the way Latavius runs the football,” interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “I like what I’ve seen, but I’ve seen (14) carries. I want to see more of them. I’m curious, too. I’m curious just like the fans are curious.”
Curiosity won’t anoint a new cat. Sparano told SiriusXM NFL radio that he won’t be a true workhorse back right away.
“It’s hard for me to sit here with a player – I think the world of this kid and his improvement – and think that guy is a workhorse,” Sparano said. “Until I can hand him the ball 15, 18, 20 times and see how he responds. … You have to get him going in that way before I think he can handle that many carries. In college, he carried the ball quite a bit. I’m sure he can handle the workload. He just hasn’t in a while.”
“For right now, Latavius is a guy who’s going to be a guy you have to continue to rotate.”
That’s been clear at practice. Murray continues to take lower-team reps, and it’s likely that Darren McFadden and possibly Maurice Jones-Drew will get significant touches against the 49ers.
Murray will certainly have an increased workload. That’s something he’s looking forward to. He wants to prove himself worthy of a starting job.
“Without a doubt, and I’m ready to show that,” Murray said. “I’m ready to show I can handle a workload of carries, so there’s no pressure for me at all. I know what I’m capable of and so however many carries I get or however many plays I get, I just have to make sure I go in there and perfect them.”
Fans have been intrigued by this prospect since he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. An ankle injury in training camp aborted his rookie season, and his practice performance kept him behind McFadden and Jones-Drew for the regular-season’s first few months. Then something started to click. He progressed to the point that he deserved touches, especially on a team so bad running the football.
He made the most of his recent chances, flashed tremendous potential and left people wanting more.
“I know it’s only a couple carries here, a couple catches here, but you can’t take it away from him,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “The guy went out and did it. You’ve got to be excited for him for that.
“He’s done a great job of staying the course and staying positive. Obviously, like we talked about before, he was the third-string guy. He dealt with this injury now. He’s going through a little adversity on top of what our team is going through, so to see him just stay positive and keep working through it has been awesome to see because it says a lot about him and his character. To go through this time and still have the right mindset, but I will be excited to see obviously what he can do with more touches.
"Hopefully it’s more 90-yard runs.”