|Edge says he won't slow down after 30|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 27 July 2008 22:37|
That's supposed to be a grim birthday for NFL running backs, given the pounding they take.
Not for James, the NFL's leading active rusher.
``That's like a cliche,'' he said with a chuckle after the Cardinals' practice Sunday at Northern Arizona University. ``I don't think that applies to me, because after all I've done and the way I take care of my body, I'm not even concerned with that. I see some guys, they haven't even played as long as I've played and they're missing practice and they're not able to play every game.''
The 6-foot, 219-pound James has started all 32 games since he left the Indianapolis Colts to sign a four-year, $30 million contract with Arizona.
His durability isn't a question. But there are hints that Edge might be losing his edge as he prepares for his 10th NFL season.
The numbers he's produced in his first two years in Arizona haven't approached the lofty standards he established with the high-octane Indianapolis offense.
In 2006, James averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry and gained 1,159 yards, his fewest in a full season. To make things worse, the Colts won the Super Bowl.
Last year, James averaged 3.8 yards per carry and gained 1,222 yards. James rushed for more than 4.0 yards per carry in every season with Indianapolis except 2002, when he returned from reconstructive knee surgery and battled numerous other injuries.
It's only fair to note that the Cardinals' offensive line has been a work in progress since James arrived.
James has heard that the Cardinals might use more zone blocking, which he prefers to run behind. But he's not banking on it.
``I don't want to get ahead of myself,'' he said. ``I'll believe it when I see it. We're going to wait on that.''
Asked if that was a lesson he had learned in two years in Arizona, James grinned.
``That's one thing I have learned, you've got to just let it come to you, don't get frustrated and just keep working,'' James said. ``That's all I'm going to do is just continue to work hard and let things come to me, not try to force them and not get frustrated - because you can get frustrated. You can get really frustrated.''
Coach Ken Whisenhunt expects James and the line to come together this season, the second in Whisenhunt's offense.
``I'm excited to see how Edge does this season,'' Whisenhunt said. ``After 1,200 yards last year, which was a solid season, hopefully we'll do a little better this year.''
Whisenhunt hedged when asked if there were any signs that James might be slowing down, as many backs do at his age.
``It's hard to see when we're doing this in practice, because you really don't see him have to break a tackle one-on-one, or have to open it up in the open field,'' Whisenhunt said. ``So I'm sure we'll have time to see that. But from the indications that I've seen out here, I'm pleased with the shape that he's in and how he's working.''
Regardless of his speed, James keeps motoring up the NFL's all-time rushing list, cementing his status as one of the great runners in pro football history.
The four-time Pro Bowler has 11,607 career rushing yards, 13th on the NFL's all-time list. He needs 1,133 to pass Tony Dorsett in seventh place. Last year, James blew by such former stars as O.J. Simpson, Corey Dillon and John Riggins.
James has averaged 1,190 yards in two seasons with the Cardinals. If he maintains that pace, he would be in the top five by the end of his contract, trailing only Emmitt Smith (who finished his career with two forgettable seasons in the desert), Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin.
``I'm not too far away, and I still feel good and I'm still interested in it,'' James said. ``So I'll be one of those top guys, no doubt. I'm not worried about that.''
James doesn't have to be reminded of his place in history.
``I'm aware of where I'm at, because that's one of the things that was important to me when I came into this game,'' he said. ``I wanted to be able to play a long time and also be productive for a long time. When it's all said and done, I can say, 'OK, this is where I end up with the all-time greats playing this game.'''