James back in top form with Colts

Posted: Tuesday, August 05, 2003

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) Edgerrin James appears to be back in form.

In the first week of the Indianapolis Colts' training camp, the two-time NFL rushing champ is making moves he couldn't make last season, the year after he underwent surgery on his left knee.

''We've seen the same thing in summer school,'' Colts president Bill Polian said with a wide smile Monday. ''It tells me he's on schedule, and he's back to where he was.''

For James, it has been a long, painful and difficult recovery from the injury: a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the worst injury there can be for a running back.

Doctors and coaches warned him it would take two years to heal completely.

But last year at training camp, James proclaimed himself 100 percent fit just nine months after the surgery.

Initially he showed glimpses of his Pro Bowl form. As the season wore on, though, things changed. James got nicked up, and eventually wore down.

He sprained both ankles and missed two games. He needed rest during games and practice. He cut cautiously and his typically powerful runs became rare. He was even replaced in short-yardage situations.

He finished the season with 989 yards and a 3.6 average compared to 1,553 and 4.2 and 1,709 and 4.4 in his first two seasons.

''I was coming from a situation of not being able to walk every day,'' James said. ''I was held back, I couldn't do full two-a-days and that gave a false sense of what I could do.''

This year already feels different to James, whom the Colts selected ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams in the 1999 NFL draft.

When he walks up and down steps, he doesn't feel pain. On the football field, he's running with power and doesn't worry about hits.

''There's a big difference,'' James said. ''The cuts, going through the holes, it's totally different. Before I was going with caution.''

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