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Graney: Raiders running back deserves more of a chance

He began riding horses at age 5 while growing up on a farm in North Carolina. Learned responsibility from all the chores associated with it.

That’s what often separates Zamir White from others. This deep and intense work ethic.

“I want to meet the people who raised him,” Raiders running back Ameer Abdullah said. “He’s humble, stoic, responsible. A very simple guy, but a breath of fresh air.

“He doesn’t look too far into the future or dwell on the past. Just a young guy who says: ‘All I can handle is today.’ That’s beautiful to see.”

White is a second-year running back for the Raiders and the backup to starter Josh Jacobs. White is like most across the NFL in such a position.

He’s waiting his turn to perhaps turn into the No. 1 guy.

He got a taste last week.

Future starter?

White — with Jacobs sidelined by a quad injury — ran 17 times for 69 yards and his first career touchdown in a 63-21 blitz of the Chargers.

His 17 carries matched his total from his entire rookie year.

Jacobs returned to practice Friday, meaning White will likely return to his backup role at Kansas City on Monday.

That likely means little usage if Jacobs can handle his normal workload.

The question is how much longer that will be the case.

Jacobs held out in training camp after being franchise tagged by the Raiders, which would have paid him a little more than $10 million. He eventually signed a one-year contract that allowed him to earn an additional $2 million.

Jacobs is still a running back. There are few NFL teams willing to pay a high rate at the position.

The Raiders need to decide on a general manager and coach this offseason, but there’s a chance new leadership decides to move on from Jacobs rather than continuing to pay him.

That would make White the heir apparent. Or so you would think.

Look. This season has become an audition for almost everyone. The year became about who could help the Raiders in the future the minute coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler were fired. That includes a certain backup running back.

“First, I think Zamir prepares himself each and every week for this opportunity, and he took full advantage of it (against the Chargers),” interim coach Antonio Pierce said. “What I saw was a physical runner, somebody that was moving the pile, that was straining to get every inch, every foot, every yard he could get.

“And when you say audition, every day is an audition. That’s football. Everybody’s on a day-to-day, minute-by-minute contract, because we can all get fired at the blink of an eye. So, that’s how we approach the day. Guys know it. Take advantage of your opportunities and he did just that.”

Play him more

The Raiders need to see what they have in White. The only way to gauge such is to play him more.

But they’re 6-8 and still in their minds have an opportunity to win out and challenge for a playoff spot. They’d need a lot of help elsewhere to qualify.

Expect Jacobs (if healthy) to continue receiving the lion’s share of the carries until the postseason is no longer a possibility.

It just doesn’t help answer a critical long-term question, is all. White having another game like he did against the Chargers could.

“I just went out and had fun when my chance came and took advantage of it,” White said. “Head down, keep working, go through the process. If Josh plays, I’m happy for him. If he doesn’t, I’ll be ready. Shoot, man, just go out and play and do your best and don’t worry about anything. Just blessed to be here.”

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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