Patriots' Craig James Would Like More Work

Associated Press

Craig James raced 65 yards for one touchdown. He scored again on a 90-yard pass play in which he ran the last 61 yards. He dashed 22 yards on another rush.

The flashes of brilliance strike like lightning. But then, like lightning, they disappear. James is happy with the quality of his work with the New England Patriots. The quantity, though, is another matter.

James, the seventh leading rusher in the American Football Conference last season, has just 49 carries for 222 yards in four games this season. After running 12 times in last Sunday's 35-20 National Football League loss to the Raiders, he sounded off.

"I had four (actually six) carries in the first half. You can't get anything going like that," he said. "I'm not getting a chance."

The next day, James had cooled off. But his ardor for getting the ball hadn't.

"I was frustrated," said James, explaining his locker-room outburst after his fumble led to the Raiders' go-ahead touchdown. "I wanted to go out and redeem myself. I wanted to do something. I know that without the ball I couldn't redeem myself. That was it.

"I know I can (help the team). There's no doubt about that. That's my driving desire. I wouldn't open my mouth if I didn't think I could help."

He helped with his 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Patriots a 26-6 lead in the season opener against Green Bay. It became more important when the Packers rallied but lost 26-20.

The 90-yard play against Chicago, which won 20-7, also came in the fourth period and averted a shutout.

The 22-yard run came in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles game "and I had a chance to break that one all the way," said James.

The more carries he gets, he said, "your eyes, your body, everything about you" feel more prepared to play well. "In the fourth quarter, I know all I have to do is get the ball because I'm going to make something happen.

"That comes from just being through the game. I'm not uptight anymore. I've gotten rid of all the nervous energy. I've got some bruises on me and I have a feel for what's going on."

He might get that feel earlier if he got the ball more but he shares the backfield duties with Tony Collins, who rushed for 1,-049 yards in 1983. ew England also strives for a balanced attack between the pass and the run, further cutting into James' chances.

"It's a matter of emphasis," said Patriots' Coach Raymond Berry. "If you really decide that you want to get a player the ball more then you just have to make a decision that you're not going to get it to another one and I don't really see our offense as being composed of players right now that can be neglected."

James' current frustration is just the latest in a series of frustrations after his brilliant career at Southern Methodist where he shared playing time with Eric Dickerson.

From 1979 through 1982, Dickerson ran for 4,450 yards. James was close behind with 3,742.

James was the fourth player drafted by the United States Football League in its first year but ended up with the lowly Washington Federals. He gained 823 yards that season but sprained his knee early in his second campaign.

The Patriots, who had drafted James in 1983, then signed him to a three-year contract. He was happy to play again for Ron Meyer, his college coach, but Meyer feared charges of favoritism and let him run just 20 times in the first eight games last season.

Meyer was fired, and James carried the ball in the one-back offense 140 times in the last eight games under Berry. He gained more than 100 yards three times. But in training camp this year he was moved to fullback and the Patriots returned to a two-back attack.

He said he's not depressed that he hasn't come close to the pro performances of Dickerson after nearly matching him in college.

"They've got the ideal situation out there" with the Rams, James said. "They've got a huge line. They've got a running scheme."

He knows he could do much more in a program like that but said he understands his role here.

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