OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle was unable to finish practice Thursday because the oblique strain he suffered last week flared up once again, leaving his availability for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers in doubt.
With only one practice remaining before the team leaves for Santa Clara, California, it’s less likely Randle will play, which moves the spotlight to Darren McFadden.
McFadden missed the first 11 practices of training camp because of a hamstring strain. He took his first 11-on-11 carries against the St. Louis Rams on Monday and the first-team snaps on Tuesday. With Randle out Thursday, McFadden took the first-team work once again.
What happens Sunday?
McFadden is not sure he will play against the 49ers as he returns to the Bay Area, where he spent the first seven years of his career playing for the Oakland Raiders.
"Just depends on whatever the coaches and trainers decide," McFadden said.
The initial looks at McFadden have been positive. His speed is clearly evident. The burst that made him the No. 4 overall pick by the Raiders is still there.
"Just to be able to get out there, run around, be around my teammates, it feels good to work and work on a little burst here and there," McFadden said.
With Randle, McFadden and Lance Dunbar unable to play in the first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, the Cowboys turned to undrafted rookie Gus Johnson to start the game. Johnson hurt his shoulder in the game and has not practiced this week.
Almost by default, McFadden -- and Dunbar -- have to get some work against the 49ers.
And the Cowboys need to see McFadden. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has given McFadden the benefit of the doubt even though the running back has not averaged better than 3.4 yards per carry since 2011.
The Cowboys' offensive line won’t be at full strength, but runners sometimes have to create on their own.
"Football is one of those games where it’s the next man up, so anytime somebody goes down another guy has to step up and right now we’ve been experiencing that a lot lately," McFadden said. "We just have to keep pushing. We’ll have everybody back out there soon, but right now, just the next guy has to be ready."
In this case the next man up has to be McFadden.