James, a former standout at defensive end for Wisconsin, was arrested in November after a bar fight in Madison. Police say James lost his temper when a bartender refused to serve him after closing time and punched a friend in the face.
He was charged with felony battery and misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Prosecutors dropped the disorderly conduct count Tuesday in exchange for the guilty plea on the battery charge.
Dane County Circuit Judge William E. Hanrahan deferred sentencing on the count, ordering James instead to enter the county's first offender program, which offers treatment and counseling.