Short week will challenge Darren McFadden's body, not spirit

Since taking over the Cowboys' lead back role on Oct. 25, Darren McFadden has 122 carries for 494 yards. AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

IRVING, Texas - Darren McFadden has been through this kind of short week before. Twice actually.

In 2009 and in 2013 he played against the Dallas Cowboys while with the Oakland Raiders. It didn’t go so well for him or the Raiders. Oakland lost both games, and McFadden had a combined 36 yards on 11 carries.

But in the last five games McFadden has proven to be a different runner than he was then.

“Getting ready for this short week, you just have to embrace it, man, and make sure you take care of your body,” McFadden said, “because you don’t have the same amount of time to recover as you would on a normal week.”

McFadden was questionable going into Sunday's game against Miami because of a groin strain but equaled his season high with 29 carries and finished with 129 yards. On the Cowboys’ final possession, McFadden had 11 carries for 40 yards. In other words, he had more yards and the same amount of carries in a quarter than he had in two previous Thanksgiving games.

“Can’t say it’s more mental than physical, but you definitely have to get your body all the way back right,” McFadden said of the quick turnaround. “For me, I feel good and I’ll be ready when Thursday comes.”

McFadden has not had a spell this good since 2011, when he had 111 carries for 610 yards in the first six games. Since taking over the Cowboys’ lead back role in the first quarter of the Oct. 25 meeting against the New York Giants, he has 122 carries for 494 yards.

“The biggest thing for us is just to try to keep him healthy,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He never had real significant injuries. He had kind of nagging injuries. To be honest with you, he had a couple of them early on with us. Since he got the opportunity to be the every-down back against the Giants, he has really embraced it fully. And he has a great spirit about him. He’s one of those guys who gets better and better the more he carries the football, and I think he demonstrated that again [Sunday].”