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On the Edge

Posted Oct 15, 2009

Edgerrin James needs 18 rushing yards to move into the Top 10 on the NFL’s all-time list, and he could get them in Sunday’s big game against his former team – the Arizona Cardinals.

 

Edgerrin James isn’t just chasing legends. In his 11th season, and with his third team, he is gaining ground on them.

With 18 yards in the Seahawks’ crucial game against the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field on Sunday, James will move past Marcus Allen into 10th place on the league’s all-time list. And, isn’t it ironic that James’ feet can accomplish this feat against the team he played for the past three seasons?

Not it James.

“It doesn’t matter,” said James, who signed with the Seahawks on Aug. 25. “It’s football.”

In his short tour with the Seahawks, James is playing against is second former team in a three-week span. But going back to Indianapolis, where he began his career and played seven ridiculously productive seasons, transcended football for the NFL’s leading active rusher (12,226 yards).

“The Colts, I played there a long time,” he said. “And that was my first time actually going back to the city of Indianapolis since I played there. So that was different.”

On the cutting Edge
Edgerrin James needs 18 rushing yards to move into 10th place on the NFL’s all-time list.
Emmitt Smith

18,355

Walter Payton* 16,726
Barry Sanders* 15,269
Curtis Martin 14,101
Jerome Bettis 13,653
Eric Dickerson* 12,739
Tony Dorsett* 12,739
Jim Brown* 12,312
Marshall Faulk 12,279
Marcus Allen* 12,243
Edgerrin James 12,226

* Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Smith is eligible this season)

But Sunday’s game could become memorable, as well, if James is able to stride past Allen – a player he grew up watching and whose accomplishments he remains impressed with.

While he gives the cold shoulder to any questions about playing the Cardinals this week, James quickly warms to the subject of joining the likes of Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Jim Brown on the Top 10 list.

“That means a lot to me,” James said. “It means a lot, especially in this day and age (when) you’re not going to see too many guys moving to 10,000-12,000 yards because of the two-back (system) and the way the NFL is going.”

James lumped himself in a group with LaDainian Tomlinson, Fred Taylor and Clinton Portis and then offered, “We’re like the last of a dying breed. So you’ve got to embrace it.”

James has reached the portal of this plateau that can be a stepping stone to the Hall of Fame at the age of 31, and still thinks there are more seasons, carries and yards ahead.

“It’s up to me how long I want to play and how far I want to go up that chart,” he said. “That’s super important to me. I’m glad I got off to a fast start.”

James checked that Top 10 list when he entered the league in 1999, as the fourth pick overall in the draft by the Colts. He proceeded to rush for 1,553 yards in his rookie season and added 1,709 in 2000.

“I looked at that and said, ‘I want to be one of these guys,’ ” he recalled. “It makes it even better when you kind of fulfill that obligation. You say, ‘OK, you made that obligation to yourself and said I’m going to do everything it takes and I’m going to do everything the right way.’

“I always try to go out and try not to be a selfish player, but within the right way still climb up that chart and win games. That’s the beauty of it.”

Allen produced his 12,243 rushing yards in 16 seasons. That makes James shake his head and smile.

“I’ve talked to Marcus Allen and I always ask him, ‘How did you play 16 years?’ ” he said. “That’s impressive. I don’t think I’ll be interested in 16 years.”

And what will it feel like when James gets that carry that carries him into the Top 10?

“I’m not chasing just the Top 10, I’m chasing all of them,” he said. “I’ll look back on it later. Later is when I’m really going to feel it. Because right now, you’re just working. You just go to work. You don’t worry about the numbers. You don’t say, ‘OK, I need this or I need that.’

“You know it’s right there, but you just continue to work. Then, at the end of the year, you look up and say, ‘This is where I’m at.’ ”

As great as James has been, this offseason – and now season – has been one of great adjustments for him. While the Cardinals were waiting until they could draft a replacement (Beanie Wells) before releasing him, James was dealing with the death of his long-time girlfriend and the mother of his four children.

“I had personal things I needed to deal with,” he said. “That was my main focus. So I was able to deal with those things. Football was secondary.”

Since signing with the Seahawks, James has had to adjust to a new role – a still developing role. A workhorse back who averaged 363 carries in his three 16-start seasons with the Colts and 330 in his first two seasons with the Cardinals, James has just 37 in his first five games with the Seahawks (for 105 yards).

James saw his most extensive stint Sunday, when he carried 11 times for 40 yards in a 16-play, 47-yard trudge that allowed the Seahawks to chew up the final 12 minutes in their 41-0 romp over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The drive featured a season-best 10-yard run by James, and also a 14-yarder that erased by the Seahawks’ only penalty of the game. His runs produced four first downs outright, and a fifth when a 15-yard personal foul was tacked on to the end of a 5-yarder. But he also recovered his own fumble for a 4-yard loss.

“It was cool,” James said. “But the thing is, you’re so stiff because you’re sitting on the sideline for so long. But you just go out there and do your job. You become the closer. Right then, that was my role – to be the closer. Try to finish the game off, get the first down.

“We were able to keep their offense off the field and kind of secure the shutout.”

If James could have one play back in his closer role, it would be the fumble.

“You can’t really take too many risks,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you hold on to the ball. And I dropped the ball. I don’t know how I dropped the ball. That was weird.”

While James would like more, he realizes Julius Jones is the lead back in the Seahawks’ ground-game-by-committee approach, and that Justin Forsett has special skills the coaches also want to feature. Just where, when and how he fits still is being determined.

“I don’t want that to be his only role,” coach Jim Mora said when asked about James’ closing act against the Jags. “I’d like to see Edge run the ball during the course of the game some.

“I’d like to see him get a little more involved early. It’s not up to him to get himself involved; it’s up to us to get him involved. And that’s something that we’ll work toward. Certainly, you don’t want a guy like Edge to feel like he’s the mop-up guy or the closer.”

But in that closer role, with the Seahawks sitting in first-and-10 situation at the Jags’ 19-yard line, James was getting oh-so-close to the yardage needed to reach the Top 10.

“I was thinking, ‘Let’s get him in the end zone and break that record,’ ” Mora said.

That’s when offensive coordinator Greg Knapp intervened and football etiquette took over in the final minutes of a game that already was a blowout.

“Thankfully, Greg said, ‘No, let’s take a knee and get out of here,’ ” Mora said. “Which was the right thing to do, absolutely the right thing to do. And Edge understood. He’ll get that soon enough.”

Maybe even this Sunday, in a big game for the Seahawks against one of his former teams.

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks