McFadden getting NFL education in minicamp

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Darren McFadden burst through the middle during a drill and slowed up as he reached the secondary only to be scolded by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp for not running hard for 40 yards.

Tom Rathman got on McFadden's case another time when he carried the ball back to the huddle with his elbow not tucked in close to the body to secure the ball.

The NFL education of McFadden began at the Oakland Raiders rookie minicamp this weekend, when the fourth overall pick in the draft got his first taste of professional football.

McFadden said Saturday he noticed the difference from college as soon as he was handed pens, a highlighter and a notebook with his playbook. McFadden gets to work with rookies this weekend before joining the rest of the team later this month.

"It's good to get a few things so that you can understand and get the concept of it," he said. "Once you get the concepts of the first part of it, it's a lot easier to catch on to the rest of it when they throw it at you."

After working primarily as a tailback on his first day of practice, McFadden showed off his variety of skills Saturday. He lined up as a wide receiver at times, ran the ball out of the I-formation and even worked at quarterback in some individual drills.

McFadden was often utilized as the quarterback in college at Arkansas in the "Wildcat" formation, with fellow first-round pick Felix Jones as running back. McFadden threw seven touchdown passes in his career.

He ended the practice Saturday, by winning a competition for the offense when he beat a linebacker to the corner after taking a pitch and broke off a long run.

McFadden is being counted on to team with last year's No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell and give the Raiders a more potent offense. Oakland has won only 19 games the past five seasons and has often lacked the playmakers needed to win in the NFL.

But coach Lane Kiffin cautions about putting too much pressure on McFadden so early.

"He's not here to save the franchise. He just happens to be our first pick of the draft," Kiffin said.

One of the immediate priorities is working on McFadden's ball security. He fumbled 15 times last season at Arkansas, although some of those came as a quarterback or kick returner as opposed to a tailback.

Rathman pointed out that McFadden carried held his elbow too far from his body when they first met before the draft last month and is working on fixing the flaw before the season.

"You've got to be a good fundamental football player, and that's what we're working on right now," Rathman said. "Obviously, coming out of college his biggest negative was probably his ball security, so we've jumped on that early. He understands where we're coming from. He's using better technique, better decision on where he's putting the ball at certain times. So he understands what he needs to do."

McFadden is part of a crowded backfield in Oakland. Justin Fargas started for most of the second half of last season, finishing with 1,009 yards, and another former 1,000-yard back, LaMont Jordan, is also still on the roster.

"I feel like the coaches know what they want to do," McFadden said. "I'm just sitting back right now and trying to learn from those guys that are ahead of me and just learn the playbook and things so I can get out there on the field and when I get out there, I know what to do."

The most intriguing option is Michael Bush, a fourth-round pick a year ago who missed his rookie year recovering from a broken leg.

Bush was projected as a first-round pick before breaking his leg in his season-opener for Louisville in 2006. He sat out all last season, getting to practice only briefly with his new team.

He admits he was taken aback when the team drafted another running back, but was reassured after talking with Rathman.

"Coach Rathman after they drafted McFadden and told me, 'This has nothing to do with you. Just hang in there, keep focusing and keep working hard like you been doing. Everything else will take care of itself,"' Bush said.

Bush and McFadden give the Raiders more options at running back than they had last year because both are talented receivers, as well as runners.

"We're excited they're all different," Kiffin said. "They're very different players and bring different things and we've got to figure it out. Two of them, in Michael and Darren, catch the ball really well so we've got to see how much we can do with that."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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