Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wild season lands Mike James back with Buccaneers

Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

As the media approached Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running back Mike James, a huge smile that even Magic Johnson could appreciate came across his face. It showed just how happy James was to be back to the place he calls home.

It has been a wild ride for James this season. From the sorrow of getting cut prior to the season opener, to the uncertainty of sitting at home wondering his next move; from the joy of getting another chance on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad to the elation of getting the call that he was being re-signed by the Buccaneers.

Suffering multiple injuries at the running back position, the Buccaneers brought back James prior to the team’s Thursday night game against the Atlanta Falcons. He had a limited role with 20 plays on offense and 17 on special teams. He rushed the ball once for three yards and a first down and also caught three passes for 17 yards.

“It was great being out there,” James said Monday. “I appreciate the fact of being out there. Coach (Dirk Koetter) gave me an opportunity so I’m thankful.”

James will likely get even more opportunities in Sunday’s game against Chicago. Running back Doug Martin’s status still up in the air and Jacquizz Rodgers still in a boot. Also, the Buccaneers placed Antone Smith on injured reserve on Monday leaving the team with undrafted rookies Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough along with James healthy.

“Mike’s a sharp guy and he did a good job of getting himself ready to go last week,” Koetter said. “I don’t see a reason why he can’t be ready to go on everything this week.”

That is fine with James, who did not want to leave. He was a sixth-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Miami. Plus, he was born in nearby Haines City and was the first person drafted from Ridge Community High School in Davenport (his high school teammate Vince Williams was taken 17 picks later by the Pittsburgh Steelers).

“It’s been wild,” James said. “I can’t even explain. I feel like when I first started camp, I had no idea the season would go the way it’s gone. It was tough.

“It hurt me,” he said of meeting with general manager Jason Licht on the day of his release. “I didn’t want to go. It hurt me because when you give everything, you’re willing to do whatever for the organization and they didn’t want to let you go and it hurt them just as bad. And you didn’t (mess) up, it’s just luck of the draw. It’s tough.”

James had injured his leg during the preseason and the Buccaneers waived him injured. The three weeks before the Lions called were hard on him. But even while he was in Detroit, if the Buccaneers were on television, he was watching.

“I was listening to (quarterback Jameis Winston) make calls on TV,” he said. “When I left Tampa, I never felt like I was fully out of here. It was hard.

“I love Tampa, the coaches, front office, the media here,” he said. “Seriously. I always liked the way things had been done, through the ups and the downs. There are people who want the best for the people around here. My teammates, they’re family to me. Even when I was in Detroit, I’m texting them. Even for the Monday night game, I texted Jameis before the Monday night game. I was celebrating just as hard because I know how much it meant to beat Carolina. If there’s any place I wanted to get back, it was here.”

It hasn’t been easy for James but his life has never been.

His mom died in a car accident when he was in college. In his first season, he suffered an ankle injury and had to miss the rest of the season. Since then, he’s been fighting for a spot on the team. Last year, he spent the majority of the year on the practice squad.

James knows how quickly things can change. For the time being, he is just happy to be back.

“I’m like a firm believer in something has to give,” he said. “If you work hard long enough, something is going to give. It’s going to happen. I’m a firm believer in that. If I stop, then I’ll never know. You know what hell is, God is revealing to you all the things you’ve never tried. So you go every day.”

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