With Matt Hansen's injury, the battle for linebacker clarifies somewhat. Hansen was no lock to make the final roster, but he was a strong competitor for a spot.
In his absence, the primary competition for a pair of reserve spots (I'm guessing, here, but I do think Tatupu/Dent/Weatherspoon/Nicholas have spots locked down) comes down to a motley crew of undrafted free agents, Spencer Adkins and Robert James.
It's no certainty, but that might mean it's time to resign ourselves to another year of Robert James.
James is an enigma to nearly everyone outside of the team. Drafted in the fifth round back in 2008, he has never gotten a tackle in an NFL game. He has bounced from the practice squad to the roster over and over again, and was suspended for four games back in 2010 for violating the league's performance-enhancing substance rule. He has had, not to put too fine a point on it, an uneventful career.
Yet James keeps coming back to these Falcons. He keeps getting released and coming back, surviving to make the roster another year. He's beaten out scores of UDFAs to grab roster spots in the past, and he survived the four-game suspension. Every year, it seems, he spends some time on the active roster, and every year, he's inactive for every game.
Contrast that to Spencer Adkins. Selected a year later than Adkins and a round later, he's played in 24 games over three seasons, piling up 12 tackles and helping out on special teams. That's hardly a distinguished career, but he's doing something on this football team. He's also just 25 years old; James is 28.
It defies belief that a 28-year-old linebacker with no exceptional size or speed and no history of any production at the NFL level could stay with the same team for five years, but unless a rookie like Patrick Schiller or Jerrell Harris steps up in a big way, that's probably exactly what's going to happen.
As a writer, I like to think I can choose the right words for most situations. Yet I find myself at a loss over and over again when it comes to James. For the first couple of years, he was a vaguely promising young linebacker. Ever since then, he's just been around, as much a fixture at the Georgia Dome as the dome itself. I literally can't think of a single reason why he's been able to hang on as long as he is, but you have to admire the dude for it.
If James does hang on this year, I hope he contributes a ton to the team as a reserve and special teamer and shuts us all up. Otherwise, it will be just another chapter in the remarkable saga of Robert James.
Your thoughts on James?