July 15, 2006
'Edge': Still no hedge
Ex-Colt offers rim shots upon his return to city
By Phillip B. Wilsonmailto:email@example.com
Edgerrin James is back in town today. Relax, Indianapolis Colts fans. It's only for today.
The visit is for the Indiana Black Expo and his fans, not the Colts. The team's all-time leading rusher, who signed as a free agent with Arizona on March 12, has moved on in mind, body and free spirit.
And then some.
The carefree Floridian is looking so far into the future, he's already contemplating a probable induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"When I get to the Hall of Fame, I'm going to have to pick between a jersey for Arizona or the Colts," James said in a telephone interview.
"Edge" is in Indy to help longtime friend Amp Harris with the ninth annual "Saving Our Youth" celebrity basketball game at 6 p.m. today at the RCA Dome. Several Colts, including Dwight Freeney, Reggie Wayne and Bob Sanders, will be there. So, too, will Indiana Pacers star Jermaine O'Neal.
"Me and my boy Amp want to do it," James said. "We enjoy the Black Expo and I'm always going to come back for it."
James will sign autographs from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center's Hall F, booth 1806. At 10 p.m., he'll be the guest of honor for a public welcome-back party in the Sagamore Room.
His many friends will bemoan the fact he is no longer a Colt. James ran for 9,226 yards in seven seasons as a vital cog in the team's vaunted "Triplets" attack with quarterback Peyton Manning and receiver Marvin Harrison. Selected fourth overall by the Colts in 1999, James led the NFL in rushing each of his first two years, and last season was his fourth Pro Bowl selection.
But it wasn't enough to earn a multiyear contract with the Colts, who in recent years gave such rewards to Manning, Harrison, Wayne and tackle Ryan Diem. So James signed with Arizona for four years and $30 million with $11.5 million in first-season bonuses.
"I did everything I could do," said James, who turns 28 on Aug. 1. "A better door opened up for me."
In keeping with past comments, he didn't openly criticize Colts president Bill Polian or the team for not bringing him back. But there was an obvious tone to his take on why he ended up elsewhere.
"The people that know, they know. They know how important I am," James said. "I was a starter at the Pro Bowl (in February). Coaches and players vote on that.
"It's crazy. The fans know what I did for the team. They know what's going on. I'm just doing my thing in a different area code. I'm not going to argue about why this or why that didn't happen. Discuss that with the people who pull the trigger."
The Colts, particularly Polian, took a cautious approach in recent years with James because runners are more injury-prone the longer their careers extend. James tore up a knee in 2001 but returned the next year before it was fully healed and played hurt. Healthy the past two seasons, he ran for more than 1,500 yards in each.
"I will always be connected to the city of Indianapolis," he said. "It's going to be a long time before someone passes me as all-time leading rusher. I mean, I put in some years there.
"And I'm going to be in the Colts' Ring of Honor and the Cardinals'. At some point, (the Colts) will have to put me on there."
James, who never hid his disdain for frigid Indiana winters, is loving life in Arizona.
"I'm doing what I do. I'm having a ball and having a blast," he said. "It's heaven for me. I get to walk around in a tank top.
"I got rid of all my sweat suits and jackets. I left everything that was long sleeve with Cato June and Reggie Wayne. I don't need that stuff anymore."