ARLINGTON, Texas – If the Cowboys' final roster is a puzzle that's being put together over these next few days, then Darren McFadden is a piece that's gone missing.
Of course, McFadden isn't missing in the literal sense. He watched the Cowboys' 28-17 loss to Houston from the sideline with his teammates, and he dressed in the locker room afterward. But when trying to determine the makeup of the final 53, it's hard to know what to do with the nine-year veteran.
McFadden hasn't practiced since May, after he broke his elbow in an off-field accident. He's also been overshadowed by both Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris, who have enjoyed standout camps.
That helps explain why McFadden has been the subject of trade speculation, among other rumors – though it's understandable if he isn't listening to it.
"For me, I'm a ball player. I just keep my head down and keep grinding," he said. "Anything that I can't control, I don't worry about it. I'll let everything else be handled in the front office and whatever they decide.
It's hard to even guess what McFadden's trade value may be, given that he's not technically on the roster right now. He's been on the Non-Football Injury list all summer while rehabbing his injury, and it's not exactly clear when he will be ready.
[embeddedad0]"It's definitely one of those things that I'm still with the trainers and working with them – just taking it day-to-day," he said. "Right now we're just working and taking it day-to-day and seeing how things come."
McFadden has definitely made progress since the start of training camp, as he said he can feel improvements in his arm strength and his range of motion. But only the Cowboys know if that's enough to merit moving him to the active roster. If they leave him on the NFI for the start of the regular season, he'd be unavailable until after Week 6. But it's also unclear how long he'd need to get ready for regular season action.
"I can't just put a number of practices on it," McFadden said. "It's all about going back out there and taking reps, getting the feel of things and getting out there and moving around."
The Cowboys have said before that they'd love to hold on to their quality depth at the running back position. McFadden ran for 1,089 yards last fall, and he was just named Offensive MVP for the 2015 season at the team's kickoff luncheon on Wednesday. And yet, it's hard to imagine him ranked any higher than third on the depth chart entering the season opener against the Giants.
Regardless of how it shakes out, McFadden should have some clarity about his situation in the next 48 hours, and the Cowboys will have a clearer idea of what the running back room looks like going forward.