James Ready to Rush

Erasmus James is ready to return to game action on Saturday night after more than 11 months away from the game, the extended time off due to a knee injury. See what James had to say about his anticipated return and his physical and mental condition heading into the comeback.

Whether he meant it as a cliché or he was talking in a literal sense, Erasmus James said he is taking Saturday's preseason game in Seattle "one step at a time."

In reality, the Vikings' third preseason will offer James his first steps back onto the field in game action since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in on Sept. 17, 2006, in an overtime win against the Carolina Panthers. Since then, James has undergone surgery to repair the ACL and a follow-up procedure a few months later.

"Definitely. I'm going to go out there this week and take it one step at a time and see how I feel out there," James said. "There's no hesitation at all. I'll just go out there and keep trying and keep getting better."

While James spent the season rehabilitating his injury at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility and continued pushing himself on the sidelines with trainers monitoring his progress during the team's offseason training activities, the team continued to search for additional options to bolster their pass rush.

Kenechi Udeze was moved over to James' right end position last season while Darrion Scott took over starting duties at left end. During the offseason, the team made the decision to move Udeze back to left end to compete with Scott for the starting spot and put second-year pro Ray Edwards in a battle with rookie Brian Robison at right end.

Saturday, James joins that battle, or at least takes the first steps in rejoining that fight for playing time.

"I'm very excited to get down in that stance and just get off on the ball," James said. "My mental state is good because I want to go through this game, make sure I go 110 percent and see where I'm at."

Head coach Brad Childress said he'd just use this game as a gauge to see where James is at with his bid to return to regular-season action in less than three weeks.

"We ramp it up pretty good here, but there are some things that can happen to you in a game that don't happen to you out here," Childress said. "I think probably build more confidence in the fact that I am in there playing in live competition and trusting that rehab he's done, because he has worked very hard at it. He's flashed out here. He is five, six days into training camp right now, so I think we kind of weigh that. I want to see his adrenaline get going and get him back to the level he was at. We'll just kind of take that measuring stick here after this game and it should be a pretty good one."

James said he will not be wearing a brace that he has used occasionally in the past two weeks as he returned to practice. He's looking to get as many snaps as he can, but he doubted that he'll make the start. He also admitted that there is the usual soreness that accompanies a return from a serious knee injury and a return to practice.

"There's always going to be soreness, especially when you're just coming back and not really having done anything in a year, pushing on it and going up against someone," he said.

But at least he's advanced one step closer to returning to game action, where he had four sacks and 34 tackles as a rookie, when he started nine games in 2005. The conditions, however, are much different now than there were two years ago.

He will have to readjust to the responsibilities he administered in only two games last year under the Tampa-2 defense. When James was a rookie who played in 15 games and made nine starts, the Vikings had a different defensive scheme. He will also be facing new competition from Edwards and Robison, the emerging fourth-round draft choices of the last two years.

"They are out there competing and that's what it's all about," James said. "It's going to be a lot of competition and I'm excited about that competition because that's what makes people better."

And he's hoping he is part of making the pass rush better in 2007.

"That's what I was brought here for and I still think I've got it," he said.

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