Cards' 'Edge' confirms public perception

For a guy that can't get on the field, Edgerrin James just dropped the ball. He interrupted the feel-good story of the NFL, distracting the Cardinals and their fans before the biggest game of the year.

It will be a costly fumble in a Hall of Fame career.

Through his agent, James recently requested his release from the Cardinals, and on some level, his unhappiness is understandable. James effectively ranks fourth on the Cardinals' depth chart of running backs. His three carries over the past two games are fewer than wide receiver Anquan Boldin (four). In Sunday's win at Seattle, he watched as J.J. Arrington got the call and the ball in the fourth quarter of a close game. A proud man has been embarrassed by Ken Whisenhunt, who is using James to make a powerful statement.

The head coach will not tolerate players who gripe during the good times, who miss the only scheduled practice during a bye week, who strike some members of the organization as a guy not running that hard, particularly in that loss to the Panthers.

In his last 49 carries, James has gained 137 yards. Those numbers scream of a running back in decline, which James most certainly is not. They also don't reflect how much James has selflessly helped rookie Tim Hightower.

But it will be hard to defend James now, and here's the problem: By the end of the season, James will have collected $25 million of his $30 million contract with the Cardinals. And before the season is over, James will surely be needed by a team entering uncharted territory.

He should have kept his mouth shut, worked like Arrington to get back into good graces, and played out the season without any further complaints. In a worst-case scenario, he would've remained in the doghouse, released without any further attrition to his body, and able to resume his career next year with rested legs.

Instead, James just confirmed the public's worst perception of him - that he's driven only by money and statistics. It is in stark contrast to what James said earlier in the season when asked about his diminished role:

"Me? I want to win. I want to make my trip out here worthwhile. I want to do whatever it takes to help turn this program around."

Whatever it takes? Sometimes that means holding a clipboard, like Matt Leinart. Sometimes that means giving up carries because the team has two of the best wide receivers on the planet. It means being a team guy, and understanding the civic impact of the big picture. The worst franchise in sports history is 7-3 and could clinch its division title before Thanksgiving. The once-beleaguered Cardinals are in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye, and have a puncher's chance at the Super Bowl. This is no time to spike the Kool-Aid.

It's popular to bash the agent in stories like this, particularly a public nuisance like Drew Rosenhaus. When reached on Wednesday, Rosenhaus said James didn't want to be a distraction, which is almost laughable.

The story first appeared on a highly credible, football-specific website ( It appeared without any sources or attribution. That means the story was likely leaked by the agent, who was then conveniently forced to comment when his office was flooded with phone calls. But, hey, sorry for the distraction.

Bad move, guys. James was guaranteed his $5 million salary in 2008 when he made the opening day roster. It's one of many reasons why the Cardinals do not and will not release James, who might be needed if Hightower gets injured.

James is highly intelligent, and should have known as much. He should have known that such a tactic was not only futile and fruitless, but likely to land him in the fan's doghouse at the worst possible time.

After all, it's been a historic season for the Cardinals. Too bad not everyone is enjoying the view.