Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bradie James is a smart guy. His football intelligence combined with his athletic ability has made him the Cowboys’ leading tackler for the past six seasons. James’ everyday life smarts will make him successful after his Cowboys days are over, which will be sooner rather than later. The most impressive part is that James already knows that, something that most NFL players never see coming.
Cowboys second-year linebacker Sean Lee and rookie linebacker Bruce Carter were drafted to replace James and fellow linebacker Keith Brooking. Both James and Brooking are past their NFL primes and in the last year of their contracts. James is well aware of all of these facts, as well as the timing of Lee and Carters’ drafting.
“The writing is on the wall,” James said. “As soon as that happens, after the first game, the second game, the writing is on the wall. I’m a big boy, a grown man with a family. I know what time it is. I’ve been around; I’ve seen it. That’s the situation.”
James’ reference to his family reflects his maturity as a millionaire; he knows not to spend his riches all in one place. He can take very good care of his family if he manages it correctly. James isn’t bitter about the situation, either. He knows this is what happens in professional sports and he’s not going to just coast the rest of this season.
“My biggest thing is, we’ve been here long enough, man. I just want to win,” James said. “Nobody cares about if I continue to lead the team in tackles, this and that. It doesn’t even matter anymore. What matters is our legacy.”
Indeed, James led the Cowboys in tackles through some rough seasons as well as some successful years. When the Cowboys were a punch line in the NFL, leading the team in tackles was the only consolation for a player like James. Now he knows his opportunity to win a championship is almost gone and he’s going to make the most of it.
“We’ve been here long enough to where we understand that window is closing, so we’ve got to win,” James said. “The position that we’re in right now, our backs are against the wall. It doesn’t matter if they get somebody off the street. If they can out there and play and my job is to go out there to play with them and help us win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
If only the Cowboys and every other NFL team had more players like James. Mature, unselfish guys like that only come along once or twice in a generation of professional athletes. James will indeed get his chance to lead the team in tackles again this year as Lee might miss the rest of the season with a dislocated wrist. However, James will play to his full potential the remainder of his days in Dallas, no matter how long that is.
Contact Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin