Knee injury to sideline James for season

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dominic Rhodes is no longer Edgerrin James' fill-in.

Rhodes is now the starting running back for the Indianapolis Colts.

James' knee injury will keep him out for at least seven months, causing him to miss part of next summer's training camp.

''My role really changes because now I'm the starting running back for sure,'' said Rhodes, an undrafted free agent. ''I have to go out there with that in mind. I have to carry the ball a lot, and I have to catch the ball out of the backfield.''

The Colts said Wednesday that James, the two-time NFL rushing champion, will have surgery this weekend to repair ligament damage in his left knee. He was placed on injured reserve.

James has missed three games since injuring the knee Oct. 25 at Kansas City. He started 38 straight games before the injury.

''Obviously when you lose a player of Edgerrin's caliber, it's a difficult road,'' Colts president Bill Polian said. ''But that's the nature of this game.''

The rehabilitation process is expected to take seven months and will keep James from participating in either of the Colts' two offseason mini-camps, Polian said.

He said James was en route to Miami, his hometown, and unavailable for comment Wednesday.

''We told you we would take some time and we did,'' Polian said. ''It did improve some, you could see that, but we felt in the long run surgery was the best thing to do.''

James won rushing titles in each of his first two NFL seasons and was on pace to contend for a third straight title when he injured the knee after being tackled awkwardly late in a game at Kansas City. He'd gained 662 yards on 151 carries in the first six games.

Originally, the Colts diagnosed the injury as a sprain. James practiced once after that, Nov. 2, but when he returned to the team's complex Nov. 3, the knee was swollen and stiff.

A second MRI exam the following week, Polian said, revealed the ligament damage.

James then drove to Miami for a second opinion, and on Wednesday, he returned to Indianapolis so that team doctors could examine the knee.

''We went through some exams that were previously scheduled,'' Polian said. ''They said there was improvement, but they felt, on balance, it would be better to go ahead with the surgery.''

Rhodes has started all three games since James was injured and has proven a worthy replacement.

He became the fifth rookie in franchise history to run for 100 yards in his starting debut and is the only player in franchise history to have touchdown plays of 70 and 80 yards in the same game. Rhodes had a 76-yard TD run and an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Kansas City.

''It's a sad ordeal, especially for Edgerrin,'' Rhodes said. ''For me, it's a chance to display myself and pretty much get a half a season under my belt as the starter. I want to go out and make things happen.''

Rhodes has 76 carries for 352 yards and three touchdowns and has caught eight passes for 61 yards.

While Colts players believe Rhodes can handle the workload, they acknowledge they will miss James.

''There is no replacement for Edgerrin James,'' quarterback Peyton Manning said. ''For me, having him back, I've never taken it for granted. It's disappointing and I feel bad for him.''

James had proven to be one of the most productive and durable backs in the NFL. He started his first 38 games and tied Jim Brown as the second-fastest back to 3,500 yards, achieving the feat in 34 games.

But his injury is just one in a long line that have hit the Colts in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, the Colts placed starting receiver Jerome Pathon on injured reserve. Pathon is scheduled to have surgery to repair a ligament in his right foot.

Six other starters -- Manning, guard Steve McKinney, linebackers Mike Peterson and Rob Morris, defensive end Chad Bratzke, defensive tackle Ellis Johnson -- all are listed on the Colts' injury report. Two other players who moved into the starting lineup because of injuries -- linebacker Ryan Phillips and wide receiver Reggie Wayne -- also are listed.

The injuries forced the Colts to make a series of moves Wednesday. They re-signed wide receiver Tony Simmons, who was released Nov. 7, and defensive end Lionel Barnes, who was waived Sunday. They also claimed running back Wes Ours off waivers from Tennessee. Ours had been inactive for the Colts' first two games before Tennessee claimed him.

The Colts also waived quarterback Roderick Robinson, who was claimed by Jacksonville.

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