The running back was the fourth overall pick by the Raiders in 2008, but the best season he saw with them was 8-8 twice (2010, ’11). He joined the Cowboys in 2015 in part because of their 2014 playoff success, but they finished 4-12 in 2015.
“Man, it’s been a long time coming,” McFadden said. “It’s just good to be here.”
There are a lot of players in the Cowboys’ locker room who can say that. Right tackle Doug Free will play in a playoff game for the first time since 2009. He missed the Cowboys’ 2014 run because of injury. Justin Durant is seeing the postseason for the first time since 2011, when he was with the Detroit Lions. Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys’ top pick in 2012, and Sean Lee, the Cowboys’ second-round pick in 2010, will make their playoff debuts.
They feel the same as McFadden.
“I’m just happy for being right here,” McFadden said. “Just trying to enjoy this and not look at the past. Just keep going forward."
McFadden played in only three games in the regular season because of a broken elbow suffered last spring. He carried 24 times for 87 yards after finishing as the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher in 2015 with 1,089 yards.
The drafting of Ezekiel Elliott impacted McFadden as much as the injury.
The Cowboys figure to ride Elliott as much as they can in the postseason, but McFadden was able to carve out a niche on offense and special teams. He had 14 carries for 48 yards against the Lions when Elliott was kept out of the fourth quarter.
McFadden woke up the next morning feeling the effects.
“I was looking forward to being sore,” he said. “I got a little more action and I got a little more soreness. That’s one of those things where I knew it was football again.”
McFadden, 29, is set to become a free agent after the season. With Elliott’s prominence, there could be better opportunities elsewhere.
“For me, I would definitely love to be here, but I know it’s football,” McFadden said. “I know how things work, so that’s not always a guarantee.”
Neither is making the playoffs.
“I feel like, for me, I’ve been around long enough to kind of figure it out,” McFadden said. “I see the excitement. I see everything that goes into it and the work that has to go into it. I’m excited about it. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m looking forward to it.”