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Columbus Crew center back Julius James Columbus Crew center back Julius James isn't participating in preseason training with his teammates because of his surgically repaired left shoulder. As you might imagine, he's finding his predicament difficult.

“There’s a lot to get excited about in the team,” he told on Monday. “We have a group of older guys that are going to help push everything. I’m just sad I can’t be with the team right now.”

James has been forced to watch his teammates participate in drills and play 7-v-7 at an indoor facility because of an operation on Nov. 18.

“My labrum was torn and I had a bone that chipped off my socket,” he said, adding that his shoulder popped out three times last season. “It was pretty torn up. I needed surgery. There’s no question about it.”

He hopes to start training in about a month with a goal of being cleared to play in late March or early April, meaning he could miss as few as one or as many as four MLS matches.

“I can do most everything with the shoulder,” he said. “I’m not about to make any quick movements or push anyone. I can do everyday movements, I’m just not as strong as I should be to come out here and train with the guys.”

James, who started 31 of 34 matches in 2011 during his first year with the Crew, fills his time strengthening the core muscles in his left shoulder so he can begin lifting with heavier weights. He also works on his fitness by riding a stationary bike while the team is practicing.

He feels the deterioration in his shoulder began years ago.

“I think it’s because I used to swim a lot when I was younger,” he said. “Maybe transitioning into playing soccer, my shoulder wasn’t as strong as it should be.”

It doesn't necessarily help that he plays a physical game and is not afraid of contact when it is necessary.

“In soccer, you fall a lot,” he said. “People don’t understand how much you use your arms in soccer. When you make a slide tackle, you fall on your shoulder and it dislocates. You leverage for headers or are screening off people with your arms.”

The Crew anticipated James’ absence when acquiring Carlos Mendes from New York in December. Danny O’Rourke, Eric Gehrig and Rich Balchan are also candidates to pair with captain Chad Marshall in the central defense.