ALAMEDA (AP) — The slumping Oakland Raiders got a jolt Wednesday when running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson returned to practice for the first time since missing three games with sprained right ankles.
Both backs got hurt in Oakland's 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 4 and were finally cleared to return to practice this week. That loss started the Raiders (3-8) on a four-game losing streak that is the team's longest in four years.
"It's great just to see them in the huddle," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "''It feels like it's been a lot longer than it actually has. But just good to see them in the huddle and see them get reps and see Darren smiling and hitting the hole hard, and same thing with Goody. Good for the team but also good for the offense to have those guys back."
Coach Dennis Allen said both backs took snaps with the first team at practice and would be evaluated as the week goes on before a decision is made on whether they will play Sunday against Cleveland (3-8).
While Oakland has missed its top two backs, fullback Marcel Reece has been a more than adequate fill-in after moving into the halfback role for the first time in his career.
The former college wide receiver has rushed for 225 yards and caught 15 passes for 175 yards the past three weeks. His 4.8 yards per carry in those three games is significantly higher than McFadden's 3.3 before he got hurt and Reece has six runs of at least 10 yards — one fewer than McFadden in 91 fewer carries.
"Marcel has earned the right to carry the ball some," Allen said. "We'll still use him in that capacity."
Reece had 19 touches in the seven full games before McFadden got hurt, compared to 62 in the three weeks as the featured back in Oakland's offense. Now the Raiders will need to figure out a way to get Reece the ball more even if McFadden is back in the lineup.
"Marcel is a beast," Goodson said. "''We need to give him the ball all the time the way he makes plays. It helps us out a lot overall for him to be making plays like that. You guys see what he does when he touches the ball. You want to get your playmakers the ball."
But despite strong play from Reece, the offense as a whole has struggled, scoring 15.7 points per game the past three weeks after averaging 21.4 points per gamer over the first eight weeks.
This has been a rough season for McFadden, who emerged as one of the NFL's most dangerous backs the past two seasons before reverting back to his early career struggles this season.
McFadden has averaged more than 4 yards a carry only once all season, when he rushed for 113 yards on 18 carries against Pittsburgh in September. His 3.3 yards per carry for the season is the worst of any back with at least 100 carries.
McFadden averaged more than 5 yards a carry the past two seasons as he shined under play-caller Hue Jackson. When the team went back to more of the zone blocking schemes the Raiders used early in McFadden's career, he once again struggled.
But he still strikes fear in opposing defenses.
"He's explosive," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's one of those guys that can score when he has the ball in his hands. It doesn't matter where you're at on the field, they can be on their 1-yard line and this guy can score. When you have players on the field that can score touchdowns, that's what you want. With him not being in there, of course that's hurt them. With him being in there, it's obviously going to help them."
NOTES: LB Rolando McClain was held out of practice for a "team-related" issue that Allen would not elaborate on. ... DT Richard Seymour (hamstring), LB Miles Burris (illness), and DE Jack Crawford (toe) also did not practice. ... The Raiders signed LB Jerrell Harris to the practice squad to take the place of Kaelin Burnett, who was promoted to the 53-man roster last week.