Veteran Texans LB Bradie James eager to see if Houston can make title run
HOUSTON - Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub approached veteran linebacker Bradie James with a wide grin.
"Did you know you're the oldest player on our team?" Schaub teased at workouts this week.
At 31, James is just five months older than Schaub, and 34-year-old kicker Shayne Graham is actually the oldest player on the roster.
But for James, the message was loud and clear.
"All that means is that this is a really young team," James said with a laugh. "At this stage in my career, it's time to get a ring."
After trading longtime leader DeMeco Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles in March, the Texans were looking for a veteran inside linebacker to fill the void. James signed with the team in April after spending 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
James said his familiarity with Texans defensive co-ordinator Wade Phillips and linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who both coached him in Dallas, ultimately helped him choose the Texans.
"They tasted success last season and we need to build upon that," James said. "It was a natural choice because this is a team that can compete for a championship, and it became a no-brainer."
Many fans didn't like the team's decision to trade Ryans and sign James, who experienced a major dip in production last season. James had just 44 tackles and no sacks after leading the Cowboys in tackles for six consecutive seasons from 2004 to 2010. He also ended his five-year streak of seasons with more than 100 tackles.
Herring said he feels that the decline had less to do with James and more to do with the changing of the guard with Dallas' coaching staff.
"You can talk about his age all you want, but he moves around better than a lot of the 21-year-olds out here," Herring said. "To be honest with you, he didn't fit well in Dallas' scheme because there wasn't really a place for him, for whatever reason."
To have James back in Phillips' 3-4 defensive scheme has Herring excited about the veteran's potential this season. Herring said James' familiarity with the scheme will make him more valuable to a defence that went from third-worst in yards allowed in 2010 to second-best last year.
"We feel like we've gained back what we lost with DeMeco leaving and then some," Herring said. "On top of that, he knows our defence and he knows how to run the show."
Through the first two weeks of organized team activities, James has competed with the first team, and he is expected to be the starting inside linebacker.
"The guy knows exactly what we're doing, and he knows how to do it well," Phillips said. "And above all, he's a great guy, a great person and the kind of guy you want to be around."
When James began to see the writing on the wall in Dallas, his charity work was one of his first concerns. James established Foundation 56 in 2007 to raise breast cancer awareness among inner-city women. James' mother, Etta, died in 2001 when he was playing for LSU, and he later helped fund a resource centre in Dallas and mobile units in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., to provide mammograms.
"I always wanted to do something that would have an impact," James said. "I wanted to help those underserved women get mammograms and help them out as much as possible."
Although he now wears No. 53 with the Texans, James is hoping to bring Foundation 56 to Houston.
"He's been everything Wade and Reggie said he would be," coach Gary Kubiak said.