Running back Paul James practices as Rutgers backfield gains depth
By Tyler Barto
PISCATAWAY — The backfield Paul James returned to Wednesday looks awfully different from the one he left Sept. 21 with a lower-leg injury.
True freshman Justin Goodwin has emerged as an every-down back. Junior Savon Huggins appeared serviceable last week on passing downs. James, Rutgers' leading rusher, said he wanted to return last week against Temple, but team medical personnel had other ideas.
"There wasn't really a timeframe set for me," James said. "It was just like see how we can progress with this, see how it goes. I just kept checking in with the trainers, see how it was. Every week, just seeing what they wanted to do. It was basically checking in with them and seeing if they wanted me to go out today or do more this day."
Team trainers set a mid-October date to re-evaluate James. Head coach Kyle Flood left open the possibility James could return as soon as Oct. 26 against Houston, but that appeared optimistic.
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Ten days remain until Rutgers' next game against Cincinnati. Flood will monitor his status during practice, when he said James will participate during "thud" sessions without tackling.
James isn't concerned about a lack of contact until he returns to High Point Solutions Stadium.
"To me, it's not really a mental thing. You know it's going to happen because it's football — you're going to take hits," he said. "I just know it's going to come. It's not something I'm trying to worry about because if you worry about that ... that's when you baby it."
Rutgers has missed Paul James' yards-after-contact average
More from Flood on James from the American Athletic Conference (from 5:20 to 6:41):