IRVING, Texas – Defensive captain Bradie James stepped on the Cowboys Stadium field twice Sunday afternoon.
He participated in the pregame coin flip, and he played one defensive snap. He spent much of the game sitting on the bench without his helmet.
James wasn’t injured. His role has just been reduced to playing in the Cowboys’ base and short-yardage defenses, which meant hardly playing at all against the spread-‘em-out Bills.
“We won the game, man,” James said. “That’s what I’m here to do. The only thing I can control is how I react and how I respond to the situation. A win just makes it that much better.”
There’s no doubt that James, a proud veteran who led the Cowboys in tackles the last six seasons, would still prefer to be a full-time linebacker or at least play the majority of the snaps. That's just not reality. Sean Lee has emerged as the stud of the inside linebackers, and the rest of the corps consists of role players.
However, James has handled his reduced role as professionally as possible, especially for a player in the final year of his contract who understands that he’ll be employed elsewhere next season.
"The biggest thing with those guys is that they are great men," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said earlier this season, referring to James and Keith Brooking. "Whatever, it’s a reduced role, whatever. I don’t see it that way. You have this kid here who is going to be a damn superstar. Hell, that’s the way it is. This is pro football."
As a captain the last few years, James has preached about the Cowboys checking their egos at the Valley Ranch doors. He’s practicing that now.
“When I was younger, it would have been tougher to really understand what is going on,” said James, who volunteered for special teams work early in the season but wasn't on any of those units Sunday. “Now, I see. My legacy is helping these younger guys and winning football games. That’s all I care about and that’s what we stress in practice all day long. …
“We’re competitors by nature and as a competitor you want to be doing what you do. But you also have to see the big picture and that takes maturity and that takes a level head. And so that’s where I am.”
James expects to actually be on the field Sunday against the Redskins, a run-first, quarterback-challenged team.
"I'll play this week," James said. "It’s old-school ball."