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Edge looking to return to winning form

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James was collared by linebacker Monty Beisel as he burst through the line during a non-contact drill.

"Hold up! Hold up!" coaches shouted.

Beisel let go, but James kept churning his legs and didn't stop until he was 15 yards downfield.

James didn't look like a back who had gained 3.4 yards per carry last year, his lowest average in eight NFL seasons. Nor did he look like a back who was planning to coast into retirement any time soon.

"I still feel young," said James, who turned 29 on Wednesday. "I still feel good. If you come out here and just watch me practice, you wouldn't think I've been playing nine years."

James is in the second year of a four-year, $30 million contract. He would just as soon forget the first year.

The four-time Pro Bowler has 10,385 career yards, 19th on the NFL's all-time list. But he said he never worked hard for yards than the 1,159 he gained with Arizona in 2006.

Not only did the Cardinals endure their 17th losing season in 19 years in the desert, but James watched as his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, won the Super Bowl. And they won it in Miami, where he makes his offseason home.

But James said he didn't regret leaving the Colts and their high-powered attack.

"I was actually happy for them," he said after Wednesday's workout at Northern Arizona University. "You know, the thing about me, I'm a man. And when a man makes a decision, he doesn't have a regret and he doesn't look back. You make a decision, you've got to do it with conviction. And I went through all the scenarios. I knew what I wanted to do, and for me this is the best thing.

"It may not seem like it on the early parts, but as time goes on, I think a lot of people will see that this was the best decision for me," he said.

James hopes for improvement in new head coach Ken Whisenhunt's run-first attack. A year ago, he almost seemed like an afterthought in former coach Dennis Green's offense.

The Cardinals passed for 228 yards per game, 10th in the NFL, while rushing for only 83.6 yards per game, 30th in the league.

James rushed for 100 yards in a game 49 times in seven seasons with the Colts. He did it only three times with the Cardinals last year - and those big days were negated by three games in which he gained 41, 34 and 15 yards.

"Those things that happened to him last year, I hope it's behind him," new running backs coach Maurice Carthon said.

The 6-foot, 220-pound James absorbed a physical pounding behind the porous Arizona line. But he said the hardest part was mental.

"I think I had to mentally dig deep," James said. "Because there are a lot of times when you get the ball and you know you're about to get hit. That's one of the worst feelings - when you know, no matter who you have in the backfield, you're going to get blasted.

"I've been successful all my life. And for me to have to work that hard for 1,100 yards, that goes to show that it's bigger than this."

This year, James may not get blasted quite so often. With an eye toward improving the offensive line, the Cardinals selected stalwart tackle Levi Brown with the fifth overall pick. (Brown was not in camp Wednesday, but he and the club were said to be close to an agreement on a contract).

"That was the thing that said they're serious about winning, when they went out and drafted an offensive lineman," James said. "Because if you don't draft an offensive lineman, you're really just buying into what other people think or going with popular choices."

In Whisenhunt's scheme, James will run behind a fullback for the first time since college. There's been speculation that this might limit James' field of vision, but Carthon dismissed the issue.

"He ran behind a fullback in college," Carthon said. "It's a little like riding a bicycle. You've just got to get back on the bicycle if you haven't ridden it in a long time. He's looked great running behind the fullback. I'm encouraged about that."

James said having company in the backfield hasn't been a big adjustment so far. And he said he was energized by working with Carthon, who coached Pro Bowler Curtis Martin with the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

"I'm kind of glad that he came into my life at this point in time," James said. "This is my ninth year, but he's pushing me like it's my rookie year. He's not giving me room for error. I told him to take me to another level, and he's not letting up. He's not giving me freedom to slack off. I'm just embracing it."

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