|ESPN.com: NFL Playoffs 2008||[Print without images]|
|Edgerrin James: "If you had told me at the start of my career that I could get paid a lot of money to do nothing, I would've been fine with it because I would've done some serious partying. But all I care about is playing at this point."|
The Steelers defeat the Cardinals 27-23 in one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever.
“James is taking obvious pleasure in his recent contributions because he clearly heard all the talk about his decline. Skeptics saw a worn-out runner who turned 30 in August and was still cashing in on the four-year, $30 million deal he signed in 2006. When James received that contract, there were people who wondered how long he would last after he earned four Pro Bowl nominations in seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. His critics grew louder after his first two years with the Cardinals, when people looked more at his average yards per carry (3.6) during that time than his overall yardage (he gained 1,159 yards in 2006 and 1,222 in 2007). Of course, James points to other reasons for his numbers' falling off after he left the Colts. There was all the dysfunction that hovered around the final season of former head coach Dennis Green in 2006. There was the change to a new offense when Whisenhunt arrived a year later. And don't forget that Arizona's formerly inconsistent offensive line didn't become more reliable until this season. "Nobody had come to Arizona and gained 1,000 yards after taking the hits I took," said James, who has 12,121 career rushing yards. "That's why I know I'm still good. Who else could come to Arizona and run the ball? If you put me in the right situations, I know I'll kill it." James also scoffs at the notion that his age is a reason for concern. He said his offseason workouts in Miami were so strong that he expected to have some kind of impact on the field this season. He adds that people who question whether he has lost a step need to remember what his game is all about in the first place. "People say I can't hit the home run anymore," James said. "But I never could hit the home run. I led the league in rushing with 1,700 yards [he gained 1,709 in 2000] and my longest run was 30 yards. This year my longest run was 35 yards. So what's the difference?" The real difference for James at this point is a combination of fresh legs and undeniable desire. He clearly hated his diminished role when he was benched for three games and received just seven carries in four other contests. He also had no problems voicing those frustrations whenever somebody asked (although he says comments that he made about nearly quitting were blown out of proportion). But James also worked hard behind the scenes and remained sharp at the lowest point of his career. As Haley said: "A lot of guys would just tank it in that situation. It's a credit to Edge that he hung in there." That's why James is so excited to be contributing to a team he always believed could be a Super Bowl contender when he arrived. "If you had told me at the start of my career that I could get paid a lot of money to do nothing, I would've been fine with it because I would've done some serious partying," James said. "But all I care about is playing at this point. I just appreciate the opportunity a lot more." The Cardinals also appreciate something else: the fact that James never gave up on the idea that he still had more to offer this surprising team. Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
People say I can't hit the home run anymore. But I never could hit the home run. I led the league in rushing with 1,700 yards [in 2000] and my longest run was 30 yards. This year my longest run was 35 yards. So what's the difference?” -- Cardinals RB Edgerrin James