The obvious first question for the Eagles' newest cornerback was: Why the name change?
"For a long time, I would say about two years, I've been thinking about changing my name to William James," the cornerback formerly known as Peterson said during a conference call. "Being cut by the Giants and having gone through this injury, it made me do some reflecting.
"A lot of times you grow up with the values and traditions and the cultures of your parents and the people we're surrounded by in our community, and you gain a certain mind-state. William James represents a change in that mind-state. It represents a personal switch that reflects me and reflects my values and the things that I represent."
The sixth-year veteran said his new name was taken from his full name of William James Peterson Jr.
"It's my middle name," he said.
The cornerback becomes the second player on the team to change his name this season, joining offensive tackle William "Don't call me Tra" Thomas.
James is returning after missing all but two games last season with the New York Giants because of a stress fracture in his back.
His agent, Ron Slavin, said yesterday that 12 to 14 teams had contacted him about his client in the last few weeks, but James wanted to join the Eagles because he wanted to play for a team with a chance of playing in the postseason.
When the Eagles first contacted Slavin about the cornerback, the team was 4-1. Now, of course, the team has lost three in a row and slipped to 4-4 at the halfway mark.
"We're sitting at 4-4, so the pessimistic view would be that we're not going anywhere," James said. "I'll take the optimistic view that I can come in and help us get some wins."
It remains to be seen what role James will play with the Eagles, who have three experienced cornerbacks in Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Rod Hood. Those three haven't played together this season because of injuries to Sheppard and Hood, but all of them are healthy now.
James, 27, said he is also healthy after resting and rehabilitating his back in Arizona.
"The process was a grueling one," James said. "I was diagnosed with the injury last year in September. They told me I had one bone in my back broken and another one that was breaking. I had two options at the time. I could go on the field and break the other side, or I could take the time off and let it heal and then come back.
"I ended up breaking it anyway and rehabbing it for several months in Arizona. When I was making my decision on coming back, there were several teams in pursuit, and I had to really limit it to what kind of community I wanted to be around, what kind of coach I could learn from, and what kind of guys I wanted to be around.
"When I limited it to that, the Eagles were on top of the charts."
The Giants took James in the third round of the draft out of Western Illinois in 2001. He started his college career at Michigan, where he played for two seasons before transferring.
The Giants released James, who was then Peterson, in May. He had played five seasons in New York and started 37 of 51 games with the Giants. His best season was 2004, when he started 16 games and had 68 tackles and two interceptions.
"The injury was very frustrating because I was really anticipating playing last year," James said. "I had made great strides in 2004 and felt I was among the top in the cornerback rankings. I'm a technician, and I take pride in my game. Going into 2005, I wanted to become the best corner in the league."
Instead, he got hurt.
Now, he has a new team and a new name.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.