THE RAIDERS' LEADERSHIP crisis has trickled down to star running back Darren McFadden. As in, he wants to help solve it.
"I'll try to step up and make my voice heard," McFadden said after Wednesday's offseason workout.
Just how bad is the Raiders' leadership situation? So bad that a second-year running back, albeit the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft, feels compelled to make his voice heard — and not just to a columnist.
It's unfair to ask him to pipe up as a team spokesman at this stage of his career. He already must do so much else to recharge this franchise, whose past six dreadful seasons go hand-in-hand with the lack of locker-room leadership.
McFadden will be at his best making plays, not making his teammates accountable. That task is typically fulfilled by elder statesmen and the starting quarterback.
That said, McFadden's explosive footsteps this spring represent the best hope for what's become a hopeless franchise.
Throughout Wednesday's practice, he had the ball in his hands. He ran up the middle and around the ends. He lined up on the outside as a receiver and caught passes, and he came out of the backfield to catch screens.
In his injury-plagued rookie year, he ran for only 499 yards and four touchdowns. More alarming, he averaged only 10.8 carries/receptions per game. That won't cut it anymore. He needs at least twice as many touches per game, even though he diplomatically wants "whatever the coaches give to me."
The Raiders need McFadden — more than tight end Zach Miller and the slew of young receivers — to aid JaMarcus Russell's critical development at quarterback.
Speaking of Russell, coach Tom Cable has insisted for months that Russell needs to break out and step forth, as all starting quarterbacks should. Cable's wishes for Russell are understandable, if not a tad surprising that he's so public with them.
But when Cable came out Wednesday and said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha also needs work on leadership, that shows you just how devoid the Raiders are of proven leaders.
Asomugha enhanced his leadership by finally turning up for offseason workouts this week. Russell also is on the upswing, judging from recent progress in practice. But the Raiders do need more leadership out of them and others.
Who in the heck else can be looked upon as a leader? Maybe linebacker Kirk Morrison. Maybe left guard Robert Gallery. Maybe punter Shane Lechler. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
And, yes, maybe even McFadden.
"I want to see more (leaders), as many as I can," Cable said. "The great teams say the same thing every February, about how close they were and how their leadership is strong.
"What I'm trying to create here is a collection of leaders and guys that will take charge of this football team."
Perhaps that will be McFadden someday. When he burst up the middle to cap part of Wednesday's workout, one teammate shouted: "Hey, D-Mac! I like that, D-Mac!"
Raiders fans would like to see more of McFadden than they saw last season. So would he.
"With the injuries, I know I didn't do enough," McFadden said. "This year is going to be different."
Leaders, after all, can't lead too well when they're on the sideline, where McFadden spent time as a rookie with two bouts of turf toe.
"I can still feel it to this day," McFadden said of his toe woes. "It's still sore, but it's not preventing me from doing things."
Still sore? Yikes. At least his surgically repaired shoulder is giving him no problems.
When McFadden missed last week's (voluntary) workouts, it was because of a commitment back home in Arkansas. The commitment: a meet-and-greet at Wal-Mart's annual shareholders meeting at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas.
"I sat for pictures and signed autographs," McFadden said.
He didn't do any speaking engagements for the Wal-Mart honchos, however. Nor should he for the Raiders. Just let his spindly, speedy legs do the talking, at least until he is entrenched as the Raiders' starting running back.