Now that he’s in Japan, Indianapolis Colts running back Edgerrin James is finding out things aren’t so bad after all.
James, a two-time NFL rushing champion and three-time Pro Bowler, threatened not to take the long 14-hour flight to Japan for Saturday’s American Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons, but said Friday he’s glad he made the trip.
“We’re gonna have some fun here,” James said after a morning practice at Tokyo Dome. “We always have a good time on this team. I’ve been getting out to see a few things and the fans have been great to me.”
Sports Illustrated reported last week that James had said he would report to camp on time but would not travel to Tokyo for the NFL’s preseason opener against Atlanta. James reportedly said that the closest he would get to Japan was Benihana, a Japanese restaurant chain.
He probably won’t have time to make it to the local Benihana. James and his teammates were scheduled to visit U.S. servicemen at Yokosuka naval base later Friday before attending a function at the American Embassy in the evening.
The two teams will leave for home right after Saturday’s game, the 13th American Bowl to be played in Japan.
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning said he thought all along that James would get to Japan.
“Edgerrin says he’s having a good time,” said Manning. “I never had a doubt that he wouldn’t make the trip.”
The question now is how much James will play in Saturday’s game.
James is known to dislike preseason games almost as much as he does flights. In 2002 and 2003, he had just a handful of plays during the preseason and only a couple dozen last year.
Still, the lack of playing time hasn’t affected him. He has four 1,000-yard seasons and last year produced 2,031 yards from scrimmage — the fourth time he’s topped 2,000 in six NFL seasons.
Manning said the first-team offense might play more than many expect and that he wants James in the backfield.
The NFL’s series of international games began in 1986, in response to growing interest in American football around the world. Since then, 39 games have been played in 12 cities outside the United States.
The Colts have never played in Japan, while the Falcons made the trip in 2000 when they beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-9.
Of the 13 winners in Japan, none have won a Super Bowl. The only teams to lift the Lombardi Trophy after making the trans-Pacific flight were the 1989 San Francisco 49ers and 1992 Dallas Cowboys, both preseason losers in Japan.
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