Running back Edgerrin James stands on the sideline during the Cardinals' Monday night victory over San Francisco two weeks ago.
Ken Whisenhunt wanted to make decisions best for his team, which is why the Cardinals' coach decided to elevate Tim Hightower to starting running back over Edgerrin James.
It's also why James wasn't going to be released when he asked to be earlier this month, once he was sent to the bench. Whisenhunt addressed that topic Thursday, a day after news leaked about James' request.
"We are interested in doing what is best for this team and what puts us in the best position to win," Whisenhunt said. "That's what we have been consistent with. There are a lot of guys on this team that have worked hard to get us in the position we are in. We are excited about where we are and we have a chance to do something that hasn't been done in a long time. Over the course of the next six weeks, it's going to take the commitment of every one of these guys and we are focused on that right now.
"Edgerrin, I am sure, is unhappy. I understand that. That happens a lot in the NFL. Shoot, that happens a lot in life. The mark of being a professional is continuing to work and we expect Edgerrin to be a professional. I think that's only reasonable based on the significant investment and financial obligation that we have made to Edgerrin."
James wasn't getting into the subject much, quietly saying as he walked off the practice field "I'm just practicing and working and doing what I'm supposed to do."
The fact the news broke long after James' actual request, which took place right after the Rams' game, dulled some of the impact. The reasoning behind keeping James is simple: Should Hightower – or backup J.J. Arrington, for that matter – get injured, James would be a quality replacement.
In three games since being moved down the depth chart, James did not play in one game and has a combined three carries for five yards in the other two. J.J. Arrington has surpassed him for playing time as well. James, who signed a four-year, $30 million deal before the 2006 season, is making $5 million in salary this season.
Whisenhunt said team chemistry has helped in situations such as this so that they don't distract the team. He also said James' practice habits have not gone sour either.
A STEADY RACK
He's the reigning NFC Special Teams player of the week and he's made 13 straight field goals. The evidence is obvious that kicker Neil Rackers is "comfortable," and that's exactly the word he would use.
"It's smooth again," Rackers said. "We're not worrying about some sort of injury, we're not changing holders. Dirk (Johnson) is doing a fantastic job putting the ball down for me and (long-snapper) Nathan (Hodel), as usual, is the constant."
Rackers has made 18-of-20 field goals this season, after missing nine of 30 attempts a season ago. It wasn't a good 2007 for the veteran, who dealt with a sports hernia and, more importantly, three holders from the beginning of training camp until season's end.
Johnson was signed as the team's fourth punter/holder since August of 2007, but after an offseason of working together, he and Rackers have come together. Johnson's yeoman work as a holder likely has given him more job security, since his punting has been inconsistent. The way Rackers is going, however, Johnson probably isn't going anywhere.
"Every kicker has to be comfortable," Rackers said. "If you are guessing on anything, it tends to affect the ball flight."
No big changes for the Cardinals, although tackle Mike Gandy (ankle), while still limited, looked much better than the day before. Cornerback Rod Hood remained absent because of a family funeral. Linebacker Travis LaBoy (ankle) and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (hamstring) were limited. Cornerback Eric Green (knee) is practicing across from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a starter with Hood gone.
There were changes to the Giants' injury report, however. Wideout Plaxico Burress (hamstring), safety Sammy Knight (hip) and defensive end Jerome McDougle (knee) were all added to the list after not practicing Thursday. Starters RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) did return to limited work after skipping Wednesday.
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 11/20/08.