Robert James Hoping to Make His Mark in 2012

Robert James Hoping to Make His Mark in 2012

Jay Adams

Published July 30, 2012 at 6:45 PM

To linebacker Robert James, this year feels like a last chance of sorts.

A fifth-round selection in what was a highly-publicized 2008 NFL Draft for the Falcons, James has spent much of his time in Atlanta toiling on the practice squad or backing up on the 53-man roster. With his fifth year now upon him and practice squad eligibility gone, James is in a make-or-break period of his career this camp, needing to bust through to that 53-man roster.

While the circumstances may not be desired, 2012 Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp may be James’ best chance to get over that hump after veteran linebacker Lofa Tatupu was lost for the season with a pectoral injury and subsequently released by the Falcons.

“Unfortunately, with Lofa getting hurt, I didn’t want that, but I’m just trying to come out here and play hard each play and just show the coaching staff that I’m dependable in the way that they need me and that I’ll be ready,” James said after camp Monday.

James has certainly had plenty of opportunities so far in camp. Mixing it up with first-teamers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas at times during practice, James is getting a taste of what it could be like to start.

While the consensus is that Akeem Dent will step into that starting middle linebacker role, James has been getting the reps to show that he could be a mainstay on the Falcons’ 53-man roster after coming out of college with so much promise.

“Robert has gotten an opportunity through OTAs and camp to this point, and I thought he was very impressive in OTAs,” head coach Mike Smith said Monday. “He’s a guy that got a lot of snaps in the nickel, and the reason that happened was that Stephen Nicholas didn’t participate (due to injury), so (James) has gotten an opportunity to show what he can do. The important thing for Robert — and Spencer Adkins — is what they can do on special teams. When you’re a backup linebacker, you’ve got to show you can be in the Big Four (punt, punt return, kick and kick return) on special teams.”

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