Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs' James making another run from the NFL fringe

Mike James was the Bucs’ sixth-round pick in 2013.

Mike James was the Bucs’ sixth-round pick in 2013.

TAMPA — Mike James has felt the warm glow of the spotlight, the joy of rushing for 158 yards in an NFL game, that feeling of belonging at the sport's highest level.

Much more recently, he has known the doubt of extended time on the fringe of the NFL, on rosters but inactive on Sundays, on practice squads and cut loose.

But James is back in a Bucs uniform. His No. 25 could be back in the spotlight Sunday as Tampa Bay continues to endure a wild rash of injuries that has four running backs on the sideline. That moment could be his again.

"It's been tough, just trying to persevere through it," said James, 25, a sixth-round pick for the Bucs out of Miami in 2013. "I'm happy to be back."

The first time starter Doug Martin was sidelined by injury, James grabbed the opportunity, rushing for 158 yards as a rookie in a loss at Seattle. He never rushed for 100 yards in four years with the Hurricanes, but he was thriving, even throwing for a touchdown against Seattle.

A week later, he broke his ankle and was done for the year. The next season, with a new coach and new role in a new offense, he gained 32 yards on 20 touches.

In 2015, he never played, inactive for his five weeks on the Bucs' roster and spending the rest of the year on their practice squad. This September, a late hamstring injury forced the team to waive him days before the season opener.

After three years playing an hour from his hometown in Polk County, of calling Tampa home, James got a call from the Lions for their practice squad and moved his young family to Michigan, only to be cut three weeks later.

One man's injury is another man's opportunity, as Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says. The same back who lost his job due to injury in September got it back after another injury in November, and now he has coaches and teammates again pulling for him.

"Mike's one of those guys that's just a joy to be around," Koetter said. "He always has a smile on his face. He always brings energy. Mike's one of those guys you cheer for. He's the right kind of guy."

The Bucs likely will continue to be without Martin on Sunday, with Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith also injured. Rookie Peyton Barber got a shot last week but having another week to get his bearings could have James in a major role Sunday against the Bears.

"I knew when we cut him at the beginning of the season that it hurt him," running backs coach Tim Spencer said. "He works his butt off. Mike's an intelligent football player. He fits well with what we're going to do. He got hurt right at the end, and it was unfortunate. But he's persevered."

James' opportunity validates four seasons of hard work and hope.

"If you work hard enough, you put the time in, your work doesn't go in vain," he said. "It's hard. You have that internal battle each day: 'Is something going to happen now?' It was a struggle, but I'm happy with the outcome. It's humbling to be brought back by an organization that thinks you can play. I'm thankful."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Bucs' James making another run from the NFL fringe 11/11/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2016 8:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Crosstown rivals Bloomingdale-Newsome kick off season

    Footballpreps

    LITHIA — In a week filled with area football rivalries, there is a game on the east side of Hillsborough County — Bloomingdale vs. Newsome — that has matured into a classic crosstown battle, complete with classic cliches.

    Bloomingdale wide receiver Ed Amos charges through a drill a few days before the big rivalry game against Newsome on Friday night.
  2. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Several key players still sidelined

    Bucs

    Greg Auman gives an injury update, with several key players still sidelined from practice three days before the Bucs play the Cleveland Browns in Tampa, and a full recap of your favorite scenes from Tuesday …

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans was held out of practice Wednesday at One Buc Place. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  3. Playoff ambitions evident in opener for Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch

    Footballpreps

    WESLEY CHAPEL — A new football season in Pasco County begins Friday night, but this one promises to be like none before it — with more math than ever. A new playoff system emphasizes schedule strength, making non-district tilts particularly important.

    Wiregrass Ranch wide receiver Jordan Miner catches a pass in spring practice at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel on Monday, May 1, 2017.
  4. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues

    Bucs

    Four days before their preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns, which had 12 players not stand for the national anthem prior to their last game, the Bucs used their team meeting to discuss social issues that might have led to that demonstration, coach Dirk Koetter said.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]
  5. Rookie tight end Antony Auclair making case to stick with Bucs

    Bucs

    Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.

    Bucs tight end Antony Auclair (82) collides with a defender following a catch during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]