Preparation Helped Javarris James Make Key Contributions as Rookie in 2010INDIANAPOLIS – The good thing for Javarris James in October was in a very real sense, he knew just what to expect.
What he didn't expect was a whole lot of time to adjust. He knew better.
He had, after all, heard the speech.
And more imantly, James – a rookie running back for the Colts this past season – had listened to the speech, and knew because it came from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and linebacker Gary Brackett that it was more than just a speech.
Next Man Up . . .
That was the theme when Brackett and Manning – the Colts' defensive and offensive captains, respectively – spoke to the Colts' rookie class shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft last April. So, when James re-signed with the Colts this past off-season after stints on two other NFL practice squads, he had a very good feeling what to expect.
He was going to play, and he needed to play well.
And when needed, that's just what James did this past season.
"It was about being ready – just taking advantage of my opportunity," James said recently late in the 2010 season, a season in which the Colts won a seventh AFC South title in eight seasons and a season on which Colts.com will continue looking back in the coming weeks.
James, the cousin of former Colts running back Edgerrin James – the franchise's all-time leading rusher – played 10 games for the team in 2010.
And he didn't just play.
He also was one of the team's most-effective short-yardage runners, finishing the season with 112 yards on 46 carries, and also scoring six touchdowns.
Not that James necessarily expected the season to turn out that way.
Not after his release by the Colts just before the regular season.
James, after rushing for 85 yards on 26 carries – including 32 yards on 11 carries in the preseason finale – in the preseason, was released in the final roster cutdown before the regular season. He then spent the first month and a half of the season on the New England Patriots' practice squad, then after his release from New England, signed with Washington's practice squad.
He practiced one day with the Redskins, then with multiple injuries to the running back position, Indianapolis signed James to its active roster.
James didn't get a carry that week against the Kansas City Chiefs, or the following week against Washington, but after rushing for four yards on three carries against Houston on November 1, he scored six touchdowns in the next six games.
Twice – against Philadelphia and Dallas – he scored two touchdowns in a game, and he also scored in victories over Cincinnati and Tennessee.
The performances, James said, were no fluke.
"When I came back, I was constantly meeting with the coaches – every morning," James said. "They got me prepared like I was going to start."
James said he expected such an approach after his experience arriving with the rest of the rookie free agents and draft selections the previous May.
"That's one of the things they emphasize," James said. "I remember the first time we came here, all of the rookies – Peyton and Gary came and talked to us. They were telling us how they expect a lot of young guys, draft picks, to play a role fast."
James said Manning, Brackett and other veterans do more than just talk about young players playing key roles in critical situations.
"Everybody helps each other, so when it's your time to step up, you kind of have a feel for things," James said. "The coaches and the older players help out a lot as far as what to expect.
"Peyton takes you through every situation, so once you get out there, you feel comfortable. You're not going to get on the field unless you know what you're doing."
James said somewhere during the learning and the preparation and the playing he did what he wanted to do as a rookie, and that was prove – not only to the NFL, but to himself – that he belonged playing professional football.
"That's the main thing," he said. "I showed myself I can play in the league."
And James said while a rookie may believe he can play, actually playing and performing is the only way to know for certain. James said he did that in 2010, and now the next step is equally clear.
"Exactly," James said. "It's different from playing in the preseason and playing in the regular season. It goes from being a dream, you know, to now, 'You're here.' You think, 'OK, maybe I can play,' but there have been a lot of guys come in and they might be here for a month or two and never be back.
"Once you get out there and start playing and start doing good, it finally hits you, 'Hey, I can do this.' Now, it's to the point where I know I can do this.
"Now, I have to continue to work hard to stay here."