ALAMEDA, Calif. - Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden couldn't manage 3.5 yards per carry last season, but they are intent at re-energizing their careers as a tandem in the Oakland Raiders backfield.
Jones-Drew knows there are skeptics based on the fact that neither player has performed at his peak over the past two seasons and that some believe they simply have too much wear and tear to return to peak efficiency.
"Everybody can say what they want," Jones-Drew said. "Just don't be the same guy in a couple of months saying, 'Oh, we knew you could do it.' Hold yourself accountable like everybody holds us (accountable)."
McFadden, still only 26, said he feels like a rookie and isn't interested in reconstructing the past two seasons, where he has been injury prone and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. He and Jones-Drew haven't even discussed their parallel existence.
"It's something that's unspoken," McFadden said. "We just go out there and play ball. We don't think about what happened in the past. For me, the past is behind me. I don't care to talk about it, really. I'm moving forward. The only place I can go is up."
Head coach Dennis Allen thinks both running backs pass the eye test at practice.
"When you watch 'em practice, you see guys that still have explosion, guys that still have run skills, guys that still make people miss," Allen said. "I don't pay a lot of attention to what the statistics might say. I just see what I see with my eyes, and I see two guys that if they can stay healthy, can still perform at a high level."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, linebacker Miles Burris, who opened the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list and ended up playing sparingly in six games, found himself working with the first-team defense as the weak-side linebacker this week in the team's minicamp.
Burris was the weak-side starter as a rookie out of San Diego State, but offseason knee surgery became a months-long ordeal of rehab and left him watching rookie Sio Moore and veteran Kevin Burnett work as the starters.
"I'd never missed a game in my life since the fifth grade, but it taught me some great things and the lord taught me patience through it," Burris said. "Overall, it's been a great blessing in my life. I know it."
Burris leans heavily on his faith, but on the field isn't afraid to mix it up. He got into a scuffle with left tackle Donald Penn during one practice and had to be separated by his teammates.
While Allen warned not to make too much of lineups in the mandatory minicamp, he is clearly pleased with Burris.
"I think he's further ahead than what he was two years ago," Allen said. "Two years ago he was a rookie and really kind of struggling to find his way a little bit. He's got two years in the system. Any time you have athletic ability, football instincts and work as hard as he does, you'll find a way to get on the field and make plays."
--Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers went from starting cornerbacks in San Francisco to starting cornerbacks in Oakland, and both men believe the Raiders may be on the verge of something.
The 49ers had eight non-winning seasons before Jim Harbaugh arrived as coach. Brown was a member of four of those teams, while Rogers came on in the first year of the Harbaugh regime.
"Before I got there, they weren't good," Rogers said. "They always had a top-10 pick, were sorry, and the division wasn't really good, period."
Said Brown: "My first few years we weren't as successful, but the attention to detail changed, the mindset changed and the attitude changed and you can see that here.
"On days like this at practice, the attention to detail is amazing and guys have been putting in extra work. You see guys standing afterward and asking lots of questions. That's how we started with the 49ers."