PHOTO: Cedric James during the NFL Europe match between Rhein Fire and Hamburg Sea Devils May 7, 2005 in Dusseldorf, Germany ( Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Unlike some NFL players allocated to NFL Europe teams, wide receiver Cedric James did not hesitate to seize the opportunity when the New England Patriots sent him overseas to the Rhein Fire. James, who had already spent time in the NFL, did not view the move to Europe as a step backward, but as a necessary trip to improve his game. James knew he needed to get better before he would get another shot with the Patriots, and Europe was a good place to start.
"I think he was great," said James' agent Drew Pittman. "The reason we wanted him to go, and he and I talked about it, and I went to Scott Pioli, was that [Cedric] said he would love to go, while most guys don't. He wanted to have some more game experience, and he ended up as the go-to-guy for his team. Before missing the last couple games, he was second in the league in receptions and third in receiving yards. Personally, people got to know him [in Europe], and there were a few stories on him. People found out that he is a guy who is a good football player and an awesome guy. So I think it was a great experience for him."
James certainly got the experience he was looking for in Europe. In the ten game season, the 6'1, 195 pound receiver started in eight games, missing the last two with an injury. Despite the injury, James compiled some impressive statistics, making 29 receptions (tie 8th) for 515 yards (4th) and five touchdowns (5th). Having finished his stay in Rhein, James will return to the States with hopes of earning a spot on the Patriots roster out of camp and getting another chance in the NFL.
"He expects good things," said Pittman. "He is a man of great faith and he knows that God has a plan for him. His deal is he is going out and taking care of what he has control over."
James has moved around a lot since coming into the NFL in 2001 as a fourth round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings. With the Vikings, the former Texas Christian Horned Frog (1997-00) returned ten kickoffs for 228 yards in five games in 2001, but was released on August 13, 2003. Since, James has been a member of the Jets and the Cowboys before the Patriots signed him on September 22, 2004. The wide receiver was on the Patriots' practice squad throughout the 2004 season before being allocated to the Rhein Fire.
It is clear that religion has played a significant role in James' life. However, James is also aware that the NFL is a tough business, and that his success lies in his own hands. This time around, James is more experienced, and he knows what he needs to do.
"He is a man in a relationship with God and Christ," said Pittman. "It is a part of who is he. He draws strength from knowing that god has a plan for him in his life. Therefore, he is not to worry."
Notes: James has already returned to The States and reported to the team's minicamp being held in Foxboro from the 9th to the 11th. He is one of a number of receivers with experience in NFL Europe and in the NFL, who will compete for a roster spots. James will be lumped in with the veterans, the undrafted rookies and a couple of free agent pickups in David Terrell and Tim Dwight.
James may have a hard time making it past the final cuts considering who's ahead of him, but that won't stop him from getting his opportunity. His experience in Europe provides the team with much needed game film of him in action, something the staff will use as part of their evaluation process when making roster decisions. The Patriots had receivers dropping like flies due to injury last season, forcing them to sign players off the street. Should James prove he has more potential than players the likes of Kevin Kasper, it's just possible that if he doesn't make the final roster, the team will ask him to stick around, "just in case."
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