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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp

    St. Louis Rams' Jackson adjusts to new coach's tough camp

    Earth City, Mo. (Chris Lee/P-D)BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/06/2009

    Chris Chamberlain diagnosed the screen play quickly from his weakside linebacker spot, knifed through traffic and dropped the ballcarrier with a brutal shot around knee level.

    It was one hellacious hit. It just so happened that the ballcarrier was Steven Jackson. You know, the guy who's supposed to be the centerpiece of the Rams' offense. You know, the player many observers consider the only "difference maker" on the roster.

    In those first moments after contact, it looked as if coach Steve Spagnuolo stopped breathing. A blown-out knee can wreck a season just as much as a lengthy training- camp holdout. But Jackson was fine, getting up without injury or noticeable complaint, and heading back to the huddle. Meanwhile, Spagnuolo eyeballed Chamberlain, raising both hands — palms skyward — imploring him to "stay up!" In other words, avoid the low tackling on Jackson.

    "I wasn't even aware of who was in (the backfield)," said Chamberlain, a seventh-round draft pick in 2008 attempting to win a job. "I was out there just trying to make a play."

    As for Jackson, he has gone from training holdout to, well, tackling dummy in 12 short months.

    Last Saturday, on the first day of full-fledged tackling at "Camp Spags,'' Jackson was shocked by the intensity of the hitting during 11-on-11 drills.

    "At first, it kind of threw me for a surprise," Jackson said. "It's definitely quite a shock."

    On Saturday, after getting buried by the defense, Jackson complained to Spagnuolo about a late whistle. Because the whistle is tethered around Spagnuolo's neck, it was an argument Jackson was destined to lose. But Jackson had no complaints Wednesday about Chamberlain's hit or any other hit.

    "It happens in football," he said. "He got a little low. But it's understood. It was an accident. It wasn't anything done intentionally."

    In fact, Jackson was his usual laughing, entertaining self Wednesday during a session with reporters. If the intensity of this camp is wearing on his psyche or his body, it's not showing. It was a clear signal that Jackson is on board. On board with the new regime and what the new head coach is trying to instill in this team at Rams Park.

    Live tackling "is something that's not really routinely done," Jackson said. "But I understand the benefits of it. I'm just trying to go with the flow. I understand that no one is bigger than the team. And if this is what Coach wants to do, I'm willing to at least give everything a try."

    Those are strong words, and words that will resonate throughout the locker room because, like him or not, Jackson is one the leaders of the new-look Rams. As such, there will be no bold predictions from Jackson this year, such as his forecast of 2,500 yards from scrimmage before the 2007 campaign that he fell far short of reaching.

    "When you make bold predictions, it kind of takes away from your body of work," Jackson said. "I'm working hard. Hopefully, we'll be better; hopefully we'll become a playoff team. That's all I've been focusing on."

    That, and trying to become a leader on an offensive unit that is minus past mainstays such as Orlando Pace and Torry Holt.

    "I'm just trying to be an all-around captain for the offense, and set my example on the practice field," Jackson said. "Show guys how to practice. Show guys how to work."

    For his part, Spagnuolo likes what he sees from Jackson.

    "He's right on target," Spagnuolo said. "He's done a great job. He did a great job in the offseason. He's in great shape. So far so good."

    In past offseasons, Jackson said he worked mainly on conditioning — as he put it, "making sure that my lungs are strong."

    This offseason, he worked on making his body strong by spending more time in the weight room. The more aggressive approach to weight training might make Jackson better equipped to handle hits over the long haul, including the ones he's absorbing in camp.

    But it goes beyond that according to Spagnuolo.

    "He's been in the league long enough," Spagnuolo said. "He knows what it's like to get hit. But I think the timing of the whole offense is important. He's one of those competitive guys, and so far it's worked out all right."

    The Rams plan to lean heavily on Jackson and the running game this season. We've heard this before at the start of a Rams season, but it looks as if Spagnuolo means it.

    A healthy, productive Jackson levels the playing field for a Rams team that could be deficient in other areas.

    But with a new fullback, a new blocking tight end, and a revamped offensive line, the Rams can't wait until opening day to get the running game in sync. And there's only one way to get in sync, with full contact and live tackling.

    "It's a good thing to get the body in tune," Jackson said. "It lets you know that it's time to play football."

    Just as long as it's not "too much" football — as was almost the case with that Chamberlain hit.

    "I was holding my breath," Spagnuolo said.


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp

    It's a bit of a risky call. Imagine if Jackson's knee gets blown out on that hit, and he's done for the year. Would a tough camp meant to make the team more physical still be worth it after that? I'm glad I'm not a head coach.

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp

    The Chamberlain thing IS scary but I'm more concerned about who let him "knife through" to get the hit in the first place. I mean, it was freakin' Chamberlain ,not Ray Lewis. Let's get it fixed before it's Leroy Hill or Curry coming in with real malevolence.

    Whoever it was, I'm sure they're going to have some bad dreams tonight, and a helluva an eagle eye on their blocking tomorrow by Spags.And I bet SJ will have the swivel on his head a little better greased from now on.

    Since there have been Achilles tendons and knees popping all over the NFL this week; many of them accidental, I think the extra focus such intense methods can generate is a reasonable gamble . Goodness knows the bubblewrap method didn't work last year.

    What was that phrase back in the Martz days; "high risk,high reward" ?
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -08-06-2009 at 02:16 AM.

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    Re: Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp

    THat's pretty scary, we can't afford to lose Jackson.

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    Re: Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp

    Personally I love the live tackling, risky or not. It gets us into the mood to be a smashmouth team. It gets us prepared for it. Plus, when things like this happen, it makes both the offensive line and the running back, in this case Jax, more prepared for what'll happen during the season. They'll be looking out for that linebacker who sniffs out the screen. They'll be prepared to dish out pain to the enemy as opposed to letting him get to Jackson. All the Rams will be better for the live tackling in my mind.

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    Re: Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp

    Quote Originally Posted by TekeRam View Post
    Personally I love the live tackling, risky or not. It gets us into the mood to be a smashmouth team. It gets us prepared for it. Plus, when things like this happen, it makes both the offensive line and the running back, in this case Jax, more prepared for what'll happen during the season. They'll be looking out for that linebacker who sniffs out the screen. They'll be prepared to dish out pain to the enemy as opposed to letting him get to Jackson. All the Rams will be better for the live tackling in my mind.
    Could not be said any better than this! All throughout high school we hit all week except thursday. It made us much stronger and tougher both on defense and offense.

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