The Oakland Raiders may be dealing with a plethora of injuries at running back, but that doesn't mean that this coaching staff is going to be rushing anyone back in time for Sunday's matchup at Baltimore.
The Raiders, one of the NFL's worst-rushing teams, were dealt a blow last weekend against the Buccaneers, and not only because they suffered a 42-32 home loss. Running back Darren McFadden left the game late in the second quarter with what appeared to be a leg injury, and although X-rays were negative, he is dealing with a high ankle sprain, according to the Associated Press.
To add insult to injury, backup running back Mike Goodson also went down with a high ankle sprain and was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, per the AP. That leaves Oakland with Taiwan Jones in the backfield.
There is some good news in all of this: Head coach Dennis Allen hasn't yet ruled out either McFadden or Goodson for Sunday's game. But don't expect either of them to play.
High ankle sprains take weeks to heal, and there's no way Allen is going to rush either of these guys back onto the field—but especially McFadden, the star of this backfield and someone who, when he's healthy, is capable of electrifying this offense.
While the Raiders may be 3-5, all hope is not lost for them in 2012—at least not yet. They're not too far behind Denver and San Diego in the AFC West standings, and they still have plenty of games to play and plenty of opportunities to make up some ground. A second-half surge isn't out of the question; it's not entirely probable with this team, but it's not impossible, either.
Oakland has a whole bunch of winnable games on the horizon: It faces the Chiefs, the Bengals, the Browns and the Panthers over the course of the next eight weeks. The Raiders will have opportunities, but they're not going to be able to capitalize on any of those opportunities without a backfield. And bringing back McFadden or Goodson before either of them is ready will hurt this offense far more than it will help it, both in the short term and in the long term.
And it's not as though McFadden is immune to injury: He's missed huge chunks of time over the course of his short career with a variety of ailments—foot, toe, shoulder, knee and hamstring injuries, according to the AP—so despite the fact that he's a competitor and has immense potential, he's clearly not made of steel, and rushing him back from a high ankle sprain isn't going to do him or the Raiders any favors.
This injury, in particular, is difficult to bounce back from, and the absolute worst thing the Raiders could do is trot out McFadden and risk exacerbating that ankle. It's not as though McFadden has been carrying this offense over the first half of the season; the Raiders can afford to let him get healthy and hope that he'll have more of an impact when he returns. We know he can't do much of anything when he's ailing, so sending him out there this week, or even the next, is a waste of time.
He may not have been ruled out of action yet, but McFadden isn't going to be on the field on Sunday. It would be reckless. It would hurt the Raiders more than it would help them. He needs to recover before he can help this team, and that's going to take a couple of weeks.
Hopefully, by the time he does get back onto the field, it won't be too late.