SANTA CLARA – Former University of Oregon record-setting running back LaMichael James spoke outside of the media tent this afternoon. He talked about punt returning, learning the playbook and being in a huddle for the first time since high school. Here’s what he said.
Q: Do you have any idea how they’re going to use you in this offense?
JAMES: I really don’t have any idea. I think the first thing for me is just to get the offense down pat. It’s a different language.
Q: When you get knocked into by the players on this defense, do you sense a bigger physical presence than what you faced in college?
JAMES: I think football – it is what it is. I’ve been knocked down ample times by a lot of those guys. It doesn’t hurt. You have to go out there and give it your best, compete. We’re on the same team. We’re all in it for one goal – to win that day. I’m happy that it happens to me. It just gets me ready for the season.
Q: How has the punt returning been going?
JAMES: That stuff is pretty natural. I had great coaches at Oregon who taught me how to catch punts. Coming here, Coach Seely’s really helped me out – pro ball is much different than college ball.
Q: What are the things that you have to learn that’s different than it was in college?
JAMES: Everybody’s faster, so I have to get going really fast. I had to change my stance a little bit. You can’t hesitate. You don’t want to catch the ball on your back foot. Every second counts here in the NFL and everybody’s trying to get a step ahead. You’ve got to be perfect or it can be a miscue for you.
Q: What’s Tom Rathman’s style of coaching and how do you two work together?
JAMES: He’s a great coach. He’s expects a lot out of his players, but he’s also chill, too. He doesn’t really harp on you that bad, but he wants you to go out there and give 100 percent effort each and every day. He wants you to be tough mentally and physically. Any extra time I’ve ever needed he’s in the meeting room helping more, or he could be at home helping me out.
Q: What’s it like learning Harbaugh’s playbook?
JAMES: Compared to my playbook (at Oregon), I’ve never seen anything so different in my life. It took me a second to adjust but it’s starting to work out for me really well.
Q: How is it different?
JAMES: Everything I did at Oregon was pretty much sign language. I read everything from the sideline. I’ve never really been in a huddle, and I’ve never really played slow, so I guess that’s a little different.
Q: What do you mean you’ve never played slow?
JAMES: Just being in the huddle – that’s slow to me because I’ve never been in a huddle. At Oregon we ran plays back-to-back, back-to-back. I never, ever ran a play and got in a huddle. I had to adjust.
Q: Is there less room for you to run now than there was in your college spread offense?
JAMES: Yeah, it is less room, but I think it’s kind of easier, too. At Oregon (the defense) is all spread out, but you have to make a decision ASAP. It’s either there or there. It’s not one of those things where you know it’s going to be there. Here, if a play’s in line to go there, it’s probably going to go there. When I was at Oregon, it could have gone anywhere.
Q: I would think the choice at Oregon would play to your improvising strengths.
JAMES: Yeah, but that took me a year-and-a-half to adjust to. You just have to adjust to it.