Javarris James has the connections with the Arizona Cardinals. Now the running back must make good use of them.
With the NFL preseason in full swing today and James one of seven running backs invited to the Cardinals’ 90-man training camp roster in Flagstaff, Ariz., James will have donned a football uniform for every one of his older cousin Edgerrin James’ programs.
From Immokalee High School to the University of Miami to the Indianapolis Colts and now the Cardinals, Javarris James, 24, has followed his older cousin’s path.
In the near future, he just hopes to avoid following Edgerrin James, who turns 34 on Aug. 1, out of professional football.
“I’ve been used to that since high school,” Javarris James said of following Edgerrin James’ path. “It’s completely coincidence. Honestly.”
Javarris James said he blamed nobody but himself when the Indianapolis Colts cut him last summer, less than two months after his June arrest for marijuana possession in Fort Myers.
The Colts signed Javarris James as a free agent two years ago and inserted him into the lineup as a goal-line back. He responded by leading all rookies in 2010 with six rushing touchdowns.
“I really learned a lot through everything that was going on,” James said of being out of football last season. “I had some things off the field that messed things up. I learned how to appreciate everything and to enjoy the moment. Some things you take for granted. When you lose them, it makes everything different.
“I have a completely different approach now. Completely different.”
Retired Immokalee coach John Weber called this a “golden opportunity.”
James helped Weber and the Immokalee Indians win the 2004 Class 2A state championship.
“I’m glad he got another chance,” Weber said. “A lot of kids don’t get that chance. I hope he takes advantage of it. He was such a solid high school player. He didn’t have the great speed, but he has as good of instincts on the goal line of anybody I’ve ever seen.
“With Baby J’s work ethic, I’ve just got to believe he’s going into training camp in great shape. He was never a kid who ever slacked off with the work.”
Arizona running backs coach Tommie Robinson coached James while on Randy Shannon’s staff at the University of Miami. Arizona wide receivers coach Frank Reich knew James while on the Colts staff as the receivers coach two years ago.
“I didn’t just bring him in because I had him at the University of Miami,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t work that way. I brought him in because he has the opportunity to make this team.
“We feel like he can come in and give us some goal-line work, and we feel like he can come in and be a special teams guy. We brought him in. It’s going to be totally up to him whether or not he comes in here and makes this team.”
Although NFL teams have yet to release depth charts, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are the de facto No. 1 and No. 2 backs.
That leaves James competing against rookie Jared Crank (Purdue), second-year pro William Powell (Kansas State), fourth-year pro LaRod Stephens-Howling (Pittsburgh) and second-year pro Alfonso Smith (Kentucky) for running back roster spots. Most NFL teams keep four to five running backs.
“I’m not thinking about anybody else’s situation,” James said. “My focus is on me. Being in the NFL is a grind. I’m ready for the grind.”
Robinson, asked about James’ goal-line instincts, shrugged them off. None of those instincts matter now, Robinson said. The only thing that matters will be how James performs during training camp and preseason games.
“They all know where to run,” Robinson said of his team’s seven running backs. “They all understand how to play. It’s just a matter of how much tenacity you have in that situation. You know it’s going to be a tight window. Do you have the tenacity to put your head down and go get it?”