By Jim Thomas
Thursday, Oct. 18 2007

Realistically, Steven Jackson is at least a week away from returning to the
Rams' lineup. But the Pro Bowl running back took his first steps back to the
playing field Wednesday in practice.

Wearing the red "no-contact" jersey, Jackson took part in some individual
drills — running, cutting and catching passes. It was far from a full practice,
but the mere sight of No. 39 was a boost for his teammates.

"You could tell that it was his first day back," tight end Randy McMichael
said. "He didn't want to really try to push too much, aggravate it or
something. But it was good to see him out there. You know, see him smiling and
laughing, and seeing those 'dreads' flop at you on the run."

Wednesday marked Jackson's first practice since suffering a partially torn
groin muscle Sept. 23 against Tampa Bay. After the injury, coach Scott Linehan
termed Jackson's status as "week to week." But team sources told the
Post-Dispatch that Jackson would be sidelined a minimum of two to three weeks.

Sunday's game in Baltimore marked the three-week milepost, and now Jackson is
working his way back into game readiness.

Jackson declined an interview request Monday, and was not in the locker room
Wednesday during the media-interview period.

Normally, a week in the "no-contact" jersey is a prelude to attempting to play
the following week. Which seemingly would make the Oct. 28 home game against
Cleveland the target date for Jackson's return. Otherwise, Jackson would be out
until Nov. 11 at New Orleans, following the Rams' Nov. 4 bye week.

On Wednesday, Linehan all but ruled Jackson out of Sunday's game in Seattle.
"It's a real outside chance," Linehan said, that Jackson plays against the

"He's a great, prideful competitor," Linehan added. "It's been killing him not
to be out there."

The danger for Jackson is returning too soon, particularly with his size and
running style.

"The kind of cuts he makes, how sudden and quick he is — you have to be smart
with it," Linehan said.

If Jackson puts the full force of his 231-pound frame into one of his jump
cuts, the groin could give out and tear again if not fully healed. That could
be especially true on a wet surface at Qwest Field in Seattle. (Rain is in the
forecast for Sunday.) Jackson suffered the original injury on a slippery
surface in Tampa following a heavy rain just before halftime.

But for a day, at least, Jackson's return to the practice field provided a
spark for the team, and the hope that better days are ahead.

"It's very encouraging," Linehan said. "We talked about it as a team. We're
adding players back here slowly, but surely. We've been needing a boost on

"Having players in uniform, whether they're limited or not (in practice), shows
signs that there's going to be a lot of improvement as far as our potential to
get better."

On Wednesday, quarterback Marc Bulger (broken ribs) was back with the first
offense as he prepares to make his first start since the Dallas game Sept. 30.

"He was much improved," Linehan said. "I thought he looked as close to normal
as he's been since he got hurt."

Wide receivers Isaac Bruce (hamstring) and Dane Looker (thigh) practiced on a
limited basis; both have been sidelined since Dallas.

On defense, strong safety Corey Chavous took part in a full practice Wednesday
and may return against Seattle. He hasn't played since suffering a
partially-torn pectoral muscle against Dallas.

"I've got a shot (to play) this week," Chavous said. "We've got to see how the
rest of the week goes."

If Chavous is able to play, it would mark the first time that all 11 starters
will be on the field for a regular-season game.

"It was a very upbeat practice," Looker said. "When you lose a guy like Isaac
Bruce, and he comes back. And Steven was trying to go a little bit at the
beginning — test the waters a little bit. And Marc Bulger. That kind of gives
you some hope. You never want to use the excuse, but we've been pretty much
decimated by injuries this year."

Not all was rosy on the injury front, however. Center Brett Romberg is expected
to be sidelined for the next two games with an ankle injury, meaning he won't
return until after the bye week. Veteran Andy McCollum was at center, with
Claude Terrell moving into the left guard spot, with the first unit in practice