James continued his rehabilitation program while lifting weights under the supervision of the Vikings' training and medical staff, but he wasn't interested in speaking publicly about his emotions following his third knee surgery in less than two years. Earlier, head coach Brad Childress didn't have a time frame or want to set up public expectations for James' time frame.
"I don't know how much data there is back there of guys that have had back-to-back (surgeries). I think we'll know a little more as he's able to get back into some of the weight-bearing running type of things. He's going through a regular protocol," Childress said.
Childress was encouraged with the early results of tests following his James' most recent surgery, needed after he suffered another torn anterior cruciate ligament and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 7, 2007. Childress said James had more range of motion coming out of surgery this time, as compared to the multiple ligament tears he suffered during the 2006 season, but the coach cautioned that "I'm afraid that the usual nine to 12 months that it takes for an ACL are going to hold true for him."
There was no shortage of support from his teammates, some of whom can emphasize with his plight – at least to some degree.
"I've never been through what he's going through. That's another whole ball of wax," said linebacker Chad Greenway, who had his rookie season ended in the first preseason game with a torn ACL in 2006. "To go through it once I can understand, but to do it back to back like this is really tough. I just hope he can come out of it, come out healthy and help us out next year – just mainly for his mind to get clear and come out and play again. You just hope come training camp he'll be ready to go."
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who, like James and Greenway was another first-round pick on defense, hasn't been limited by injuries like them, but he still felt for James.
"He really had a tough couple of years. Hopefully everything is on the right track and he's rehabbing well and he'll be able to help us sometime before the season is over," Williams said.
With the uncertainty surrounding James, Williams was following the Vikings' pursuit of several veteran defensive ends in free agency. The Vikings missed out on Justin Smith and Antwan Odom, who each signed with new teams the day they were supposed to visit the Vikings.
"It would have been nice to get those guys, but we've got to go hunt with the guys we've got, as Coach (Karl) Dunbar would tell us. We're going to do our best out there and make the best of it," Williams said.
Kenechi Udeze, who has been diagnosed with leukemia and isn't expected to participate this season, linebacker Ben Leber and Edwards were the team's leading sackers with five each. Only the Carolina Panthers had a team leader with fewer than five sacks. Udeze, Leber and Edwards tied for 54th in the league for sacks, but as a team the Vikings were eighth in the league with 38 sacks last year – 3.6 more than the league average.
One of the defensive ends who will be relied on will be Ray Edwards, who was walking and talking with Williams before his interview last week. Williams acknowledged that Edwards, entering his third NFL season and coming off a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances, likely will need to play a bigger role in 2008.
"We've got some young hands out there and we're going to be depending on them a lot. They know it. They got into the swing of things last year and hopefully they'll just pick up where they left off," Williams said.