[size=13pt]Injury to Vikings' James opens door for Edwards[/size]

By Eric Krupka on September 19, 2006 12:24 AM

On Monday, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Erasmus James received bad news. An MRI revealed a torn ACL in his left knee that will sideline the second-year speed rusher for the rest of the season.

He sustained the injury in the fourth quarter, on a play that resulted in a one-yard run for Panthers running back DeShaun Foster. James limped off the field in obvious pain. After the team doctors administered the ligament test, he was carted off to the locker room.

After the game, James was hoping for the best.

"It seems like a sprain, but you never know," he said.

Unfortunately for James, it was the ACL. In the meantime, rookie Ray Edwards will likely get his shot, starting in place of James. Third-year pro Darrion Scott will also see more reps in spelling Edwards.

"I thought I was a first-day guy. A lot of people had me graded as a first-day guy. It didn't happen. I landed here with the Minnesota Vikings and I'm loving every minute of it," Edwards said, referring to his draft status.

It didn't take long for the confident Edwards to show why he believes he was a first-day guy. In the Vikings' opener on Sept. 11, he made a terrific play sniffing out the screen and batting down a Mark Brunell pass, nearly hauling it in with one hand for an interception that would have been a touchdown.

Like James, Edwards has incredible speed off the edge and is a pure pass rusher. Although the 6-foot-5, 268-pounder was a prolific pass rusher in college, and has shown flashes of it in the preseason and early this season, he would rather be known as a complete player.

"In this league, if you don't stop the run, they're going to run it down your throat all day. You've got to stop the run first to get in those situations to rush the passer," he said.

Teammates have described the Purdue product as a maximum effort guy; he plays hard non-stop all the time. They've called him a playmaker with amazing speed and relentless pursuit.

Like another Edwards on the Vikings defense, injured cornerback Dovonte, Ray believes in dreaming big and making it happen.

Some may remember that the second-year cornerback (Dovonte) predicted Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre would throw at him in last year's Monday Night Football matchup, and he felt like he could make an interception. The North Carolina State product not only made "it" happen, but he returned the pick for a touchdown.

Back to Ray. The defensive end is going into this Sunday's game against the division-rival Chicago Bears , like any other, with the mindset to help the team out. And the way that comes easiest to him is sacking the quarterback.

"Getting one sack a game would help me out a lot and help the team out. You've got to dream big and make it happen. That's what I've always done throughout my whole life and that's why I'm here now," he said

And now is Edwards' time.

-Eric Krupka is a senior writer for RealFootball365.com and can be contacted at [email protected]

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