As a group of reporters surrounded Edgerrin James in the Cardinals' locker room Sunday, fullback Terrelle Smith walked by with a grin on his face.
"Who is that over there?" he said.
It was a valid question.
Before Sunday's 31-21 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, James had become the invisible man. He had just 11 rushing attempts in the Cardinals' previous eight games, and he didn't carry the ball a single time in three of those games.
It seemed a foregone conclusion that James would be little more than a cheerleader as the Cardinals wrapped up their season.
But that all changed Sunday. Given a chance by coach Ken Whisenhunt, James responded with 100 yards on 14 carries and, in the process, likely reclaimed the starting job he had lost to rookie Tim Hightower.
Whisenhunt wouldn't confirm James' reemergence as the starter, but it seems inevitable. Hightower had just three carries for three yards, while James ran with power and speed, breaking off a 35-yard run in the fourth quarter that was the longest gain by a Cardinal this season and the longest of his Cardinals career.
Whisenhunt said he went with James because he thought his experience in late-season and playoff games would be helpful.
"We said early in the season we were going to need him at some point," Whisenhunt said. "Give him credit, he worked and he did a good job today."
One Cardinal who was happy to see James was quarterback Kurt Warner.
"He's seeing things, getting us an energy in the running game that we haven't had in a while," Warner said. "I think he is going to pay some big dividends for us down the road."
James, who was told early in the week by running backs coach Maurice Carthon that he would start, said he wasn't out to show anyone inside or outside the organization that he still had it. He just wanted to do what he's done throughout his 10-year career.
"I train to be somebody who hits the RBI and keeps people on base," he said. " ... I hate to lose yards. I just want to keep moving forward. At the end of the day, you're going to have big days."
Other than requesting a trade, James had made little noise since Hightower replaced him in the starting lineup against St. Louis on Nov. 2.
"My family has gotten in trouble because they've always reacted," he said. " ... I think it would have been embarrassing to my mama to if I acted up and behaved badly. That is what I didn't want to do - become a distraction."
James not only re-established himself as Arizona's primary back, he moved past Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris into 11th place among all-time rushers.
"That's big for me," said James, who also had his 57th career 100-yard game. "The first day I stepped onto the football field, I wanted to be one of the best backs to play this game."