While it is still unknown whether James will be activated before Sunday’s game against the Broncos, James and Pro Bowl safety Adrian Phillips are each close to returning to game action after enduring arduous rehabs.
“It’s very difficult mentally because you want to be out there and you want to be playing,” James said. “I love this game and anybody that loves the game of football would want to be out there.”
While Phillips returned to practice two weeks ago after missing ten weeks with a broken forearm, Monday marked James’ first full participation practice since injuring his foot during training camp in August.
“I’ll tell you what, he looks good,” Lynn said. “He looks good in uniform. It’s just good to see him back on the field, just his spirit and leadership that he brings to our football team.”
Last season, James proved his worth in a big way, amassing 105 combined tackles (75 solo), 3.5 sacks, and three interceptions in a Pro Bowl rookie campaign.
After injuries to both James and Phillips, two of the most integral members of the Chargers’ secondary missed a significant amount of the season. However, being on the shelf at the same time is something each player says has been beneficial to their respective recoveries.
“We’ve pushed each other a lot,” James said. “In Mexico, we were pushing each other pregame -- running, training and doing different things -- so it’s been a constant grind.”
Phillips agreed, mentioning that besides always finding new ways to compete and talk trash to each other in their rehab, the pair stood on the sidelines together and studied the game.
“We’re calling out plays on the sideline before they even happen,” Phillips said. “We’re always poking fun at each other too, so we’re always staying engaged -- that actually made the time go by faster.”
While the constraints of studying film and watching games from the sidelines have taught James to become “more of a student of the game,” Phillips attested that he’s “surprised himself” with how much he’s learned while sidelined.
“I’ve grown so much in these ten weeks,” Phillips said. “I’ve picked up on little keys and nuances that I didn’t notice before I was injured. So just being able to watch film 24/7 because I couldn’t practice -- I’ve picked up on so much more of what offenses are doing.”
A first-time Pro Bowler last season after compiling 94 combined tackles (65 solo), four tackles for loss, and one interception in seven games started, the 27-year-old Phillips is a leader among the ‘JackBoyz’ and someone James has leaned on for advice throughout his rehab process.
“We know how valuable we are to this team,” James said. “So with us working hard to get back, I feel like it’s going to help this team.”
While the Chargers defense has limited opponents to the fourth-fewest passing yards per game so far this season, Phillips is “amped” to get back out on the field and hopes to ignite his team to a late-season push.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Phillips said. “I’ve never had to deal with anything like this, so I imagine I’ll feel like a kid who’s taking his first snap in an NFL game, because I’ve been away from the game for so long.”
Lynn remarked that the chances that Phillips makes a return to game-action on Sunday are “a lot better” as opposed to last week.
Meanwhile, when asked whether he thought of waiting until next season to make his return, James attested that he still thinks the Bolts can make a run at the playoffs.
“I’m the kind of guy that starts something and wants to finish it,” James said. “We have five games left, and I feel like we can finish the season off 9-7.”
James said that he’s “feeling good” with “no limitations at all,” and that if Lynn asks him to play, he’ll answer the call.
“I’m always ready,” James said.