Oakland running back Darren McFadden hopes to make a big impact for the Raiders… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )
NAPA, Calif. — Instead of an Oakland Raiders logo on his helmet, Darren McFadden might want to consider a red cross.
Spectacular when healthy, the running back has missed 19 games in his first four seasons with injuries to his foot, toe, knee, hamstring and shoulder.
He's back and feeling healthy now, which is good news for an organization whose offensive success depends largely upon keeping him on the field.
"He's unreal," quarterback Carson Palmer said of McFadden, who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his right foot in an Oct. 23 game against Kansas City, the same game Palmer made his Raiders debut.
"He's fast, he's explosive, but he's also a phenomenal teammate. Guys love him. He's a leader. When you have your best player on your team be one of your hardest workers, it's great for young guys, vets, even guys like [Richard] Seymour who have Super Bowl rings."
Through the first six games last season, McFadden led the NFL with 600 yards rushing, added another 129 receiving, and had five touchdowns. His injury was first reported as a foot sprain, but it was later determined to be more serious.
"I just want to come out and pick up where I left off," McFadden said at training camp this week. "The type of injury that I had is something that set me down for a long time. A lot of people may think it's hard to bounce back and get in the flow of things. But for me, once I'm out there on the field, I feel like I'm at home."
McFadden is one of several elite running backs whose 2011 season was cut short by injury. Among the others are Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Chicago's Matt Forte, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, and Detroit's Jahvid Best.
The Raiders bid farewell to something of a safety net at the running back position when Michael Bush left in free agency for Chicago. Beneath McFadden on the depth chart, Oakland has Mike Goodson, acquired in a trade with Carolina, and Taiwan Jones. Those players might be heavy in potential but they're light in experience.
So how will McFadden stay healthy this season?
"If somebody's got an answer for it," he said, "I would love for them to tell me, because I need that."
Other running backs returning from injuries:
Peterson, Minnesota: The Vikings star is still rehabbing from the torn ligaments in his left knee sustained against Washington in the second-to-last week of the season. He got a scare at camp this week when he had an allergic reaction, apparently from eating jambalaya.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo: Jackson is back and feeling good after suffering a fractured fibula last season. Although he played in just 9 1/2 games, he contributed 1,376 yards from scrimmage.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas: A broken ankle cut short the outstanding rookie season of Murray, who rushed for 253 yards in his first career start, against St. Louis, and 348 over the following three games. He's back at full speed.
Forte, Chicago: Forte led the NFL in yards from scrimmage when a knee sprain ended his season in December. He recovered, though, and the Bears re-signed him to a four-year deal.
Charles, Kansas City: The Chiefs were devastated to lose Charles to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 2 last season. Charles was the league's second-leading rusher in 2010, and the challenge for him will be regaining his blinding speed after that injury.
Best, Detroit: Best suffered a concussion against San Francisco on Oct. 16 — believed to be his second of the season — and was placed on injured reserve. As of the start of this week, he had not been cleared to return.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh: Having suffered a torn ACL in Week 17, Mendenhall is still in the recovery stages and it's unclear how soon he'll be ready to play.
Tim Hightower, Washington: Another victim of a torn ACL, Hightower suffered his injury in Week 7. The Redskins don't plan to rush him in his recovery, although they expect Hightower to be ready for the regular-season opener at New Orleans.