Darren McFadden didn’t care about chasing money. He didn’t have any reservations being relegated to a backup role yet again.
McFadden simply wanted to stay with the Dallas Cowboys. His family lives here. He’s comfortable with the offense. And, oh yeah, the Cowboys are among the favorites to contend for a Super Bowl this season.
“This is where I wanted to be, so I didn’t even get into negotiations with other teams,” said McFadden, who re-signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum for $980,000.
“I’d rather be comfortable and at home at this point in my career than chasing some money. A few hundred thousand extra dollars to me don’t make a difference.”
McFadden, who turns 30 in August, has made more than $48 million in his career, according to the salary website spotrac.com. But even though McFadden is content financially, that doesn’t mean he views himself as a lesser player.
McFadden still feels as though he is in the prime of his career. The fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft is only two years removed from being the league’s fourth-leading rusher.
McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards on 239 carries in 2015, overtaking the starting job from Joseph Randle midway through the season. He played in only three games a year ago, though, fracturing his elbow before training camp.
But McFadden served as a valuable mentor to rookie Ezekiel Elliott, who went on to lead the league in rushing. McFadden also accepted his role as the No. 2 back behind Elliott and contributed on special teams.
That’s the type of role he envisions going into the 2017 season.
“Obviously I’m going to be a backup guy,” McFadden said. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it. If it’s special teams or whatever, I’m up for it. At the end of the day, it’s a team sport. I’m a team guy. That’s what I love about the game.”
But isn’t it hard for a guy who entered the game as a top pick to settle for a backup role? McFadden was the Oakland Raiders’ lead back for much of his eight years there, and then had success in that role for the Cowboys.
“It’s tough, you know what I’m saying, but at the same time it’s a team sport,” McFadden said. “I’ve been around the game long enough to know that eventually someone is going to come in who is going to try to run you out.
“I’m blessed to be 10 years in the league as a running back still playing. It’s one thing I’m very happy about.”
McFadden hasn’t lost his confidence in his abilities, either. If something were to happen to Elliott, McFadden feels he could step in and have similar production behind the Cowboys’ offensive line.
“At the end of the day, I still can run the ball,” McFadden said. “I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step. I don’t feel like I’ve slowed down anything at all. I can still run the ball.
“If I get an opportunity to step in there, I don’t think there’s going to be any drop off from Zeke to me.”
His coaches agree.
“We’re very comfortable with Darren as our backup. He was the fourth-leading rusher two years ago,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “You know he has ability. He can go out there and he’s not going to make mental errors. He’s going to go out and make the runs happen. You’re blessed to have a guy like that in your room.”
Before joining the Cowboys, McFadden was known mostly as a guy who struggled to stay healthy. He battled 15 different injuries in his first six seasons with the Raiders that forced him to miss 29 games.
But he’s rewritten his story with the Cowboys. He had the fluke elbow injury a year ago, but has become known as a team-first guy who is just happy to be in the playoff mix.
“He’s a pro’s pro,” Brown said. “He’s shaken that injury bug that plagued him a little bit in his career, and he’s playing real well right now for us. He’s great for the room and great for Zeke. We all work well together.”
McFadden is now hoping to reach the playoffs for the second time in his career. He got a taste of it last year, but is looking for a longer ride this time around.
McFadden expects to have a few more chances at it, too. He doesn’t think the end is near as far as his career goes and would like to enjoy the rest of his playing days with the Cowboys.
“I hope so,” McFadden said. “I still feel I have a lot left in the tank. I’m healthy. I still can move good. I’m still winning. I definitely hope so.”