James frustrated by diminished role in offense, criticism

Arizona running back Edgerrin James says he is frustrated with his decreased role in the Cardinals' offense, the Arizona Republic reported.

James, who signed a four-year, $30 million deal in 2006, has 363 yards on 101 attempts for the NFC West-leading Cardinals. That puts him on pace for 968 yards on 269 carries -- his lowest numbers since 2001, when he missed nearly two-thirds of the regular season with a knee injury.

James said he doesn't want to cause a controversy for the Cardinals, now aiming for their first winning season since 1984 and first playoff bid since 1998. But he acknowledged that the decreased workload is bothering him, according to the Republic.

"I don't know what's going on," he said. "I'm just here, just going to ride it out and get to the playoffs and, hey, that may be it right there," he said, according to the report.

James needs just 30 yards to reach 12,000 for his career and 105 yards to pass Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas for 12th all time in NFL history.

But backup J.J. Arrington has been playing a larger role in the offense of late, and rookie Tim Hightower is seen as the Cardinals' running back of the future. That, combined with the fact that James is scheduled to make $5 million next season, could lead to James continuing his career elsewhere in 2009.

Asked if he wanted to come back to the Cardinals next season, James said he just wants to play, according to the report.

"I don't want to just be on a team; I like to play," he said, according to the Republic. "If I'm not playing, it's not serving a purpose. What purpose is it serving? I don't want to feel like I'm selfish but you want to play."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he's glad that James wants the ball more, according to the report.

"I'm glad that [James] wants more carries," Whisenhunt said. "I think that's a good sign for all competitive players; they want the ball. That's why Edge is where he is and why he's been so successful, but I think the trend, not just with us but throughout the league, is sharing the carries."

James is only the second running back in Cardinals franchise history to gain more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. (Ottis Anderson was the first.) But he has faced criticism that he lacks the ability to reel off big plays -- criticism that he says is unfair, according to the report.

"When I came here, I came a certain way," he said, according to the Republic. "I wasn't going to hit no 70, 80 [yards]. I was going to non-stop grind, make my plays and keep wearing a team out.

"That's what I've always done and now it's like I'm supposed to be Superman. You want to have success, you want to do things and that's the most frustrating thing, I know I can play, I know I'm a good player."