James Still Working on Comeback

Former first-round draft pick Erasmus James hasn't cracked the starting lineup yet this season and has only played in two games as he works his way back from multiple injuries over the last 14 months. See what the defensive end had to say after his second rotational action of the season.

A look at the bottom of the defensive statics reveals that Erasmus James hasn't done much to register his name among Vikings defenders. He has only two assisted tackles on the season in two games played, but the former first-round draft pick is feeling better these days than he was at the start of the season.

It's been a trying experience, to say the least. At the beginning of the 2006 season, James was hoping to combine with Kenechi Udeze, another former first-round draft pick, to form an impressive set of bookend defensive ends. Instead, in the second game of the season, James suffered a season-ending knee injury that was still robbing him of the explosiveness that made him a first-round choice.

"I would probably say I'm pretty near to (getting the burst back)," James said. "I just want to keep going out there and playing and getting better. Now that I'm getting healthier, I'm getting better and I can improve on that."

After undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season and then a clean-up procedure earlier this year, the Vikings were hoping James would be ready to practice fully by training camp. Although he eased his way back into some late practices in Mankato this summer, it was obvious he still didn't trust his knee.

He finally got a chance to play in the Vikings' second win of the season at Chicago, but then a shoulder injury proved too much to play through and took him out of action again.

"I feel a lot better. I was struggling with a shoulder injury in that Chicago game, but it's been getting better and everything feels like it's on points right now, so I'm really excited about how I played (Sunday)," James said after the Vikings' 35-17 win over the San Diego Chargers.

"He did some decent things," head coach Brad Childress said of James on Monday. "I think when you get out there live it's always just a little bit different than the practice aspect. I have seen speed in practice and I think he will continue to get better and better."

In the portion of practices open to the media, it still appears that James is considered a third-string player when the team is working through position drills, but he insists he has been practicing well and earning another shot at playing time.

"I knew I was going to be active for the game because I was having good practices, so as long as I can keep competing I know I'm going to be active," he said.

The Vikings only registered one sack of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, but they pressured him early and often, which appeared to directly affect his accuracy as he was rolling out of the pocket and misfiring to receivers on the run. The pressure on Rivers, whether through blitzes or disguised stunts, resulted in the Vikings giving up their second-lowest passing total of the season – 187 yards passing.

"Just tenacity, everyone going out there and doing their jobs and being really excited about doing it," James said of the pressure.

As for James being able to consistently apply the pressure he's been hoping to since entering the league, his health may not be 100 percent yet, and trusting his knee and shoulder might be just as big of an issue. He's not there yet.

"It's always a ways to go, but, like I said, it's just every practice, every game consistently getting better," he said.


In the issue of Sports Illustrated that will hit newsstands today, Paul Zimmerman, aka "Dr. Z," picks Vikings running back Adrian Peterson as his All-Pro selection halfway through the season. The only other Viking to get a mention for consideration was guard Steve Hutchinson.

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