TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Edgerrin James was an uncomfortable bystander the first time Arizona played Philadelphia this season.
He stood on the sideline near a heater and watched the Eagles' 48-20 Thanksgiving night rout of the Cardinals.
``It's kind of boring,'' James said. ``You get bored standing around, and you learn sideline etiquette. You know when to get up, when to move, where to stand, and it's a new world.''
James is back in his old world now, returning as Arizona's lead running back after being benched for seven games. When he returned in the regular-season finale against Seattle, he brought the Cardinals a ground game they had lacked most of the year.
He fills a crucial role in Arizona's hopes to beat the Eagles in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
. He wouldn't address his future when he talked with reporters after the team practiced Thursday.
``I'm not really worried about the future,'' he said. ``I'm just living day by day and just trying to take this week and put everything into this week and go from there. I think anybody that is thinking about next week or the weeks ahead, they're doing this team a disservice.''
The man who ranks 11th on the NFL's career rushing list was benched halfway through the season in favor of rookie Tim Hightower. But it didn't do much to help Arizona's woeful ground game: The Cardinals finished last in the league in rushing.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt brought back James against the Seahawks and he rushed for 100 yards that day, and has been solid, if not spectacular, since then. Any semblance of a running game helps clear the way for Kurt Warner and the potent Arizona passing game.
Whisenhunt said switching to Hightower gave the team the best chance to win. He said that the team would need James somewhere down the road.
James wasn't sure that was true.
``I never knew,'' he said. ``I just sat there and waited. I didn't know when I was getting in the game. I just made sure I went out and continued to practice and do what I've always done, and not let whatever is going on take you from the type of player or person you are.''
od Graves to ask that James be released. Graves said no - such a move made no sense for the team.
Whisenhunt said he and James maintained a professional relationship, no matter what the agent was saying.
``I don't know if there was ever any real tension between Edgerrin and me,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I know a lot of times he wasn't happy because he wasn't playing, and that's what you want. You want players like that. He has been respectful. ... I have a great deal of respect for him and what he has done for our team, especially in the latter part after going through a hard time.''
James never made it to the Super Bowl despite all his success with Indianapolis. He does have a Super Bowl ring from owner Robert Irsay when the Colts won it all a year after James left and signed a free agent contract with Arizona.
James was asked if he ever pinched himself to see if it was true, that he and the long downtrodden Cardinals were a win away from the Super Bowl.
No, he said, that came earlier in the season.
``I pinched myself on the sideline,'' he said. ``I couldn't believe I was on the bench.''

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