Thursday, January 29, 2009

A belief that when the team flourishes, the individual flourishes

How many times have you read where a veteran player -- a former All-Pro -- is benched late in his career and becomes a distraction from the team's goals?

Now, consider Cardinals RB Edgerrin James, a guy who has had more than 300 carries in seven of his 10 seasons in the league, rushing for more than 1,100 yards in each of those seasons.

When he was benched for rookie RB Tim Hightower, James wasn't happy about it, but he "never sulked, never pouted. He worked hard and practiced as if he were starting."

As this story from the NY Times puts it, "James is especially compelling at a time when we have become used to seeing sports stars complain about playing time and statistics, team be damned."

This article contends that "if James had chosen to become a negative influence in the locker room, he might have done irreparable damage to the Cardinals' postseason hopes. Instead, he helped drive them to the franchise's first division title since 1975 by showing how much he cared about the team."

In a situation where some players would have held contempt for the player who replaced them, "James turned his attention to helping Hightower through a complex situation for both of them."

"Our relationship got even better, and that's the funny part of it. The more I played, the more he was talking to me," Hightower says. "Every single time I'd come to the sideline, he'd point out things that he saw. He showed me how to watch film. He was calling me every day to make sure I was putting the right things in my body. It just blows my mind away that somebody could be so selfless."

James' team-first attitude is unusual in today's pro game, and it shows that he takes seriously "the core values that carried him from Immokalee, Fla., to the Super Bowl: hard work and a dedication to doing what is required to help the team, a belief that when the team flourishes, the individual flourishes."

“Some guys focus on the business side more than the football side, and it doesn’t work out,” James said Tuesday. “Whenever I talk to a young guy, I always say: ‘Make sure you put football first, do everything the right way, as far as being a football player. Everything else is going to come.’ You understand that it’s not personal, it’s business,” he said. “This is business, regardless of what anyone may say or think, the N.F.L. is a business, and that’s the approach I’ve always taken.”