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Jackson eager for his chance to shine
Running back hopes to be a workhorse
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - Running back Steven Jackson has been anxiously awaiting the St. Louis Rams' opener against the San Francisco ***** on Sunday ever since coach Mike Martz announced that he was the team's No. 1 running back this spring.
"It has been a while," Jackson said. "This Sunday here is going to be a thrilling assignment for me. I have a lot of people coming up from Las Vegas and Oregon, so I'll have the family support that I need."
Jackson, a Las Vegas native who played for Oregon State, shared playing time with Marshall Faulk as a rookie last season and has lofty goals for his second NFL season.
"Fifteen hundred yards would be an excellent year," Jackson said. "Me personally, I want more than that."
Jackson paused for a second, and then gave a more humble objective.
"If I could break 1,000, that would be good," Jackson said. "I've never done that yet either. I have a lot of goals that I haven't accomplished yet, and I plan on starting it off this Sunday."
The Rams ran the ball 381 times last season. Only Oakland (328 rushes) and Philadelphia (376) had fewer rushing attempts.
Jackson said he was confident that Martz would be more committed to the running game this season.
"You never know what to expect from Mike," Jackson said. "As long as I keep putting up the numbers that I have been putting up, we can have the argument -- and by we, I mean the media -- that you can hand the ball off a little bit more.
"It's up to me. I have to make something happen when I run with it, and that's what I plan on doing."
Jackson isn't going to be bashful about asking for the ball if he's only got a half dozen carries at halftime.
"I won't wait until halftime to say it," Jackson said. "I think a lot of people know how I feel about running the ball.
"I also understand that when we have the likes of Torry (Holt), Isaac (Bruce), Kevin (Curtis) and Mac (Shaun McDonald), we do want to spread the ball out to those guys, too. You have to be a little selfish, and at times, you have to be a little giving."
Martz said he can appreciate Jackson's self-confidence.
"Receivers like to tell you that they want the ball, too," Martz said. "That's just the way it is. I'd be disappointed if he didn't do that. That's what he is used to, and that's what he wants. That's what you want in there."
Jackson rushed for 215 yards on 32 carries -- an average of 6.7 yards per carry -- during the preseason. He had 14 carries for 108 yards in the Rams' win over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football.
"He's going good," Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said. "He has young, fresh legs, and he looks like he is running to prove how good he is.
"He's a confident guy. He knows he can play. He tries to score a touchdown every play."
Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, like many people, are waiting to see how often Martz gives the ball to Jackson.
"He loves to throw the football, so I'm sure a lot of people are saying, 'You have to show me that you are going to commit to the run game,"' Holt said. "I hope he does. The Monday Night game when Steven busted out like he did, me and Isaac (Bruce) were standing a couple of times on the sideline talking about how we really enjoyed the running game. It's fun. It takes a lot of pressure off us on the outside."
Holt said he wouldn't mind seeing Jackson toting the football 20-25 times a game.
"I know Steven would definitely welcome that challenge, the big bruiser that he is," Holt said.
In the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Jackson, the Rams have the kind of punishing running back that they've been missing since Jerome Bettis was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1996 NFL draft.
Jackson also gives the Rams the ability to milk the clock late in games.
"The fourth quarter is the biggest part of the game," Jackson said. "You're closing out, and teams are worn down. We like to say as running backs, you want to start the game and finish the game the same way.
"On your last carry of the game, it should look like the first carry. That's kind of what I pride myself on. As the game progresses, defenses don't like to see a 235-pound running back. I kind of use that to my advantage."
San Francisco's Mike Rumph wished he'd never seen Jackson coming at him after being blocked to the ground by wide receiver Torry Holt during the Rams' 24-14 win over the ***** on Oct. 3 last season.
Rumph tried to reach out and tackle Jackson with his arm, ending up with a broken forearm.
"I remember thinking at the time, 'Why am I doing this?"' Rumph told The Associated Press. "But I stuck my arm out to try to trip him. When I was running off the field, I didn't even want to look at it because I knew it was pretty bad."
Jackson was apologetic for what happened to Rumph, but he did acknowledge that attempting to arm tackle him is a bad idea for any defender.
"Like I told the San Francisco media, you never go out and physically try to hurt anyone," Jackson said. "We all understand that this is our livelihood and guys do want to play. The biggest thing for me is to protect myself at all times.
"What happened to Mike was unfortunate, but that's the game of football."
Re: Jackson eager for his chance to shine
the Beast Jackson !
Re: Hey Rumph....
Everyone on offense is talking this year up more than ever. Articles like this give me the shivers and having flashbacks of 2001 [minus the SB].
Kick-ass link, tx. That's going straight to the sig.