I follow several NFL players on Twitter, and I think what they say is a useful insight into the mindset of a professional athlete. How do they feel about the last game? What do they do in their down time? Do they take being a professional athlete seriously? These are some of the questions I feel I get answered by reading their tweets.
One athlete I follow on Twitter is Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden. At the University of Arkansas, McFadden was a two-time member of the Associated Press All-America team.
After performing well at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, McFadden entered the 2008 NFL draft listed as one of the better players available. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders as the fourth overall pick, and signed a contract worth $60 million, including $27 million in guaranteed money.
During his rookie year he played infrequently and only had 113 carries, in part due to an injury to his big toe suffered in his second game as a professional against Kansas City. McFadden ended his rookie season with 499 yards on 113 attempts, with four touchdowns. He also made 29 receptions for 285 yards.
In his second season, McFadden was once again plagued by the injury bug. He suffered a knee injury in the first month of the season, and never showed the breakaway speed that he was noted for at Arkansas. He was an effective pass catcher, but he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry and has gotten the reputation for going down easily after the first hit.
While Raiders fans have been mostly disappointed by McFadden's performance on the field thus far, fans and McFadden entered training camp this year hoping for more success this season under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. However, a hamstring injury kept him out of the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys and has limited his ability to practice and prepare for the grueling NFL season.
One way I have gotten some insight into McFadden is by following what he has to say on Twitter. Just hours after his team’s victory in Dallas, McFadden was tweeting about his new iPhone and whether he should "jailbreak" it or leave it the way it is. Absolutely nothing was mentioned about the game, or his injury which prevented him from playing.
Granted, what he says on Twitter is what he chooses to share about his life, and he may not want to share information on his preparation for the season and what he does in camp and on the field. But what I read on Twitter from McFadden does not give me hope he will be successful this season.
I get the feeling he enjoys the money and fame being an NFL player has gotten him, but I’m just not so sure he is willing to work hard to become the player most think he could be.
I think after two very unproductive seasons as a Raider, McFadden should let his fans know he is upset about the injury and is working very hard to have a successful third season. He could do that on Twitter if he chose to do so. I don’t think tweeting about his new iPhone hours after missing yet another game because of injury is wise.
Maybe tweeting something saying how happy he was for the team, and on his disappointment on being injured and not being able to play would go a long way toward letting the fans know he is serious about working hard this season.
Like I said, I follow many NFL players on Twitter, including Chad Ochocinco. Before I started following Ochocinco, I thought he was a diva who just enjoyed outrageous antics on the field.
But after reading his tweets I have come to realize that he actually is very serious about his NFL career and is really just a big kid at heart. You can tell that by his mix of serious tweets about game and season preparation, and his fun tweets about buying dinner for fans at a local restaurant.
You can tell Ochocinco is serious about being an NFL player, yet he likes to have fun. McFadden can, of course, choose not to share information on his career—he has that right.
But with JaMarcus Russell now departed, many fans are focusing on McFadden, and wonder if he will be the next Raider to be listed as a draft bust. If he is to avoid the ire of Raiders fans he must have a breakout season. If he doesn’t, he may get the draft bust label that Russell now has.
As a Raiders fan I am really hoping McFadden has a breakout season. With Justin Fargas gone, the Raiders are counting on McFadden and Michael Bush to share running back duties, and it is very important for the Raiders’ success this year for McFadden to be healthy and productive.
Granted, some of McFadden's lack of production can be put on the Raiders coaching staff for not using him in a way that maximizes his talent. And some blame has to be put on the Raiders ownership, meaning of course Al Davis. However, most of the blame has to fall on McFadden himself. He needs to step up, work hard and produce on the field.
Of course what McFadden says on Twitter really doesn’t matter. What he does on the field will tell the real story. Natural talent will only get you so far in the NFL, and McFadden has talent, but is he willing to work "Jerry Rice" hard at becoming the best player he can be? Only time will tell.
If you are interested in reading what Darren McFadden is saying on Twitter you can follow him yourself, he is @dmcfadden20, and if you are interested on what I have to say I am @ohbjuan.