James tones down rhetoric in camp
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Edgerrin James still likes playing football. He just doesn't like playing the games that come with it.
The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing champion said Thursday he was ready for another big season -- even though he'd prefer to have a long-term contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
"I play football, that's the easy part," he said. "But after everything I've done and you fight back from an injury and it's still not good enough, there's nothing you can do. If you say something you get blasted. But I'm cool, everyone's cool."
He also was closer to conceding that he'll have to make the trip to Japan for a preseason game agains the Falcons.
"I'm not going to discuss that," James said. "There's really nothing to talk about. We'll see what happens."
Coach Tony Dungy said if James didn't travel with the team there could be consequences.
"I don't know that you can make anyone go anywhere," Dungy said. "You can't make them come to training camp. ... But we had a lot of hypotheticals about whether he would be here today or not. I'd say there would be a lot of consequences for everyone, including me if I didn't show up for a game that I was supposed to."
James would like to finish his career as a Colt, but he doesn't want to finish it now. There has no talk of a contract extension. It makes this camp tough.
"I don't know," James said of his future. "You have to ask the people who make the decisions. Last year I was ready for whatever, and this year it's the same approach. I'm ready for whatever. I don't make the decision, you know.
James wants an extension. After receiving the franchise tag, James asked for permission to shop himself in a trade. Days later, with no offers because teams that needed backs were using the draft, James signed $8 million franchise tender, conceding he was going to play out the season.
"Everybody know how I feel about that," James said about not getting a long-term deal. "It's one of those things where there's nothing you can do about it. It's one of those things where they can do what they want to do and we really don't have no say. We've just got to take it in stride."
James looks great on the field. He ran with the same authority and elusiveness. It was business as usual, James working the Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. The Big Three were united again. "Edgerrin is very focused on having a great year, " Dungy said. "He's going to do that and we feel good about all of our guys having a big year. But I think Edgerrin, especially, is going to be fine. He looked good today."
He's still the franchise back. He just doesn't like the franchise tag.
"It's one of those things you can't do nothing about," James said. "It was real simple. If I wasn't going to get a long-term deal, I say 'OK, let me go on and don't tag me. Let me do my own thing.' Then again, it's a system that says we're going to do with you whatever we want to do with you and go from there. You can deal with it or not deal with it."
James is dealing with it the professional way. He runs the football until someone tells him not to run.
He took a more cautious approach to questions Thursday.
He avoided criticizing the Colts but expressed displeasure with a free-agency system that allows teams to retain top players by tagging them with either the franchise or transition designation. The tags guarantee players a big salary for one year but limits their options because most teams are unwilling to part with the two first-round picks required to sign a "franchise" player as compensation.
The Colts were missing one of their Pro Bowl players on Thursday.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney, the NFL's defending sacks champion, missed the morning practice with a shoulder injury. Colts officials knew this was a possibility after Freeney had what they described as minor offseason surgery.
When Freeney reported to camp, he said he expected to be on the field Thursday if doctors cleared him.
"Yeah, I flunked," he said. "But it's all good. I think it's more about protecting it [the shoulder] than anything. It's more of let's not do something stupid and take some time to get it where it needs to be."
Freeney hopes to be back on the field next week.
John Clayton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.