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Jackson was awed by the Pro Bowl atmosphere
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Rams running back Steven Jackson didn't know what to expect from his first Pro Bowl.
"I was kind of nervous seeing how the guys were going to approach the game," he said. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't too much out of shape. But when I got there, it was a lot more relaxed than what I thought."
That was a good thing, right?
"A beautiful thing," said Jackson, reached Wednesday in his hometown, Las Vegas.
The practices leading up to last's Saturday's contest, won by the AFC squad 31-28, lasted less than an hour. And they weren't exactly run at a break-neck pace.
"You can't go fast because guys are trying to learn the offense you're going to run," Jackson said. "Plus, guys don't want to hurt each other. So it's pretty much like a walk-through."
The players stayed at a beachside resort about a half-hour's drive from Honolulu, with a practice field adjoining the hotel. That left plenty of time to lounge poolside or otherwise relax.
"You have your family and friends in town, and everyone wants to see the sights and sounds of Hawaii," Jackson said. "So by the time you get out of practice and you run around all day, you're pretty pooped out for the night."
Jackson & Co. went to North Shore to watch the surfers, and they visited Pearl Harbor. Jackson did a little snorkeling and attended a variety of Pro Bowl-related events.
"There was a lot to take in; it's so beautiful," said Jackson, who had never been to Hawaii. "You try to do a little bit of everything, and you realize the day's not that long."
For Jackson, the best part of the week was mingling with players from other NFL teams.
"There's a lot of interaction with other players that you don't get to do throughout the year," Jackson said. "That makes it a lot of fun. Meeting all the guys, trading helmets and jerseys. I think that in itself is rewarding."
He also got in some quality time with teammate Marc Bulger, the only other Rams player to participate in the game.
On game day, Jackson had some normal pregame butterflies.
"And then once you start playing, it's just a game once again, and your natural ability takes over," he said.
Jackson carried seven times for 26 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown run for the NFC squad. He also caught two passes for 10 yards. Physical contact is physical contact, even in a tropical setting. But his Pro Bowl workload was a stroll through paradise compared to Jackson's average of 27 "touches" per game during the regular season.
Jackson said it took his body a full month to recover from that workload, 436 touches on 346 carries and 90 receptions. He was just six shy of the franchise record of 442 touches set by Eric Dickerson in 1983.
Although he clearly enjoys his burgeoning role as the centerpiece of the St. Louis offense, Jackson isn't averse to sharing the workload a bit.
"Hopefully, we get someone ... to shoulder some of the burden with me," he said. "I just don't want to burn myself out too fast. At the same time, I'm glad that I was durable, that I was able to carry the workload."