September 16, 2007--Steven Jackson (David Carson/P-D)
His 27-day holdout over, it's back to work for Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson. By the time Jackson arrived in St. Louis late Wednesday night, his contract extension was all but a done deal.
"In principle, it's agreed to," Jackson said.
Once a few more details are ironed out today, Jackson, said, "We'll be pretty much done."
Jackson said the original stalemate was a matter of "just philosophy." He added, "We just had two different ways — how we were thinking, where we wanted to go on a contract. And the Rams, the way they were thinking. Their philosophy. That's where it came to a standstill."
Once talks broke off on July 25, the first day of training camp at Concordia University Wisconsin, Jackson said there was a long period without dialogue with the Rams.
"But once things started to recommence late last week, we got it done," Jackson said.
Once things reached a point, where Jackson felt a new deal was a real possibility, he decided to report.
"Things really got hot and heavy (Wednesday), and that's when I booked the flight," Jackson said. "When you're talking about this kind of money, there's going to be some kind of gripes and concerns. In negotiations, no one gets 100 percent what they want, so it was just the two of us coming to an agreement on some things."
Because of the risk of injury and the relatively shorter career of NFL players, second contracts are always important for players in the NFL.
"Especially for a running back," Jackson said.
So Jackson wanted to make sure he had peace of mind about the deal.
"It's definitely something I'm proud of and I can live with," Jackson said.
Now it's a matter of getting Jackson up to speed in time for the Rams' regular-season opener Sept. 7 in Philadelphia.
"It will be a challenge physically more than mentally," coach Scott Linehan said. "It would be different (mentally) if he were a rookie, but he's familiar with the offense from his participation in the offseason program."
Jackson's agent, Eugene Parker, informed the Rams on Wednesday afternoon that Jackson had agreed to report to Rams Park as a show of good faith in contract negotiations. With the nearly month-long stalemate over, Parker and Rams president of football operations-general manager Jay Zygmunt worked through the afternoon and into the evening on an extension.
"We're glad he's coming in, and we look forward to him being a Ram for a long time, and getting a deal done," Zygmunt said.
According to league sources, the Rams offered a seven-year, $50 million extension in late July, a deal that included $17 million in guaranteed money.
The dollars probably will be jiggled around somewhat, but the final numbers won't be dramatically different. Sources familiar with the negotiations said it was more a matter of how the dollars would be structured in the final contract.
Jackson is believed to have wanted more guaranteed money, more money in the first four years of the contract, and incentives and/or escalators that could increase the back end of the deal if he performed at a high level in the earlier years of the contract.
Jackson must first pass a physical before he can practice with the team, but that is expected to be a routine matter. There's a chance Jackson could be on the field this afternoon, but at the latest, he will practice Friday, which is basically a walk-through preceding Saturday's home exhibition contest against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I've been working out, keeping a low profile — staying away from sports radio and talk and all that kind of stuff," Jackson said. "I was in Vegas the entire time — at mom's and dad's house, taking in their love."
Even though Linehan said Jackson should catch up on the playbook quickly — he had practice scripts at his disposal during the team's time at Concordia University Wisconsin to follow along — he is expected to spend extra time in the meeting room once he reports. Then, it's a matter of getting into football shape.
"I'm sure he's going to be 'amped,'" center Brett Romberg said. "He's going to have some nice fresh legs. I'm sure he's in great shape. He's going to feel pretty good."
The danger, of course, is in trying to do too much too quickly, risking the risk of soft tissue injuries, such as a hamstring pull that could set Jackson back a few weeks if he's not careful.
At most, Jackson will have nine or 10 practices before the Philadelphia game, with about three of those being of the walk-through variety. As for Jackson's availability against the Ravens, Linehan said that was "definitely a long shot."
The Governor's Cup game Aug. 28 against Kansas City is a stronger possibility, but the starting units traditionally see little or no playing time in the exhibition finale. It's all but a certainty that Linehan will not play Jackson behind the second offensive line.
For nearly four weeks, Jackson was unwilling to report without a new contract; and the Rams were unwilling to negotiate unless Jackson reported. But when the stalemate ended, Zygmunt informed Linehan following Wednesday's practice. The news spread quickly at Rams Park, and several players learned Jackson was reporting before they left work early Wednesday evening.
"I'm excited, no question about it," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I know he's excited. I hope he (gets) what he wants as far as his contract. So I look forward to getting him in (today) and going to work. It still gives us a couple weeks before we go to Philly and get ready to play them."
Offensive tackle Alex Barron said: "It makes us feel good to have our guy in."