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Lions think RB Mike James can get up to speed quickly

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Mike James

Allen Park – Mike James is a Florida guy, through and through, but when the Detroit Lions called last week, the unemployed running back jumped at the opportunity.

Born and raised about 40 minutes outside of Orlando, James played at the University of Miami before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he spent the past three years.

The Bucs waived James last month, unable to wait for his injured hamstring to heal.

As a rookie in 2013, James thrived as an injury replacement for starter Doug Martin, before suffering his own season-ending injury. In eight games, including three starts, James carried the ball 60 times for 295 yards (4.9 YPC) and caught 10 passes for another 43 yards.

The next season, James’ role shrunk after the Bucs changed coaching staffs and drafted a running back in the third round. He spent the 2015 season on the practice squad.

The Lions signed James to their practice squad on Monday after working out a group of veterans. With Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner the only healthy backs on the roster, James could be in line for a quick promotion before Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

“He’s only been here a short period of time, but he’s very smart and very capable,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He learns quickly, which is a big plus.”

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It’s been a stressful week for James, who got out of Miami days before Hurricane Matthew hit the city. His wife and her family followed him to Michigan this week.

“Man, with hurricanes, it’s just the unknown,” he said. “You don’t know how bad it’s going to be, you don’t know the turn it will take.”

As for his preparedness to contribute on the field, James already feels comfortable with some parts of the Lions’ offense, but is still working to grasp some of the finer points of his position’s role in the scheme.

“Running the ball is universal, but making sure to know the routes, know the protections, you want to make sure you fit in and make sure you’re in the right place for the guys on your team,” James said. “That’s very important in the pass game.”

A self-described violent runner, James is hopeful to earn that promotion this weekend.

“I’m confident in what I do well and I want to show that as soon as possible,” James said.