By Bill Coats
Friday, Sep. 22 2006

Easing out of bed the past two Monday mornings, Steven Jackson moved gingerly
as the ache welled up from deep in his body. "I'm a lot sorer than the previous
years," Jackson said. "I'm putting in a lot more time in the ice tub to

Mind you, he's not complaining. Rather, Jackson is getting exactly what he
wanted: that is, the football.

After grumbling for two years about his limited workload, Jackson is averaging
22 carries this season, easily topping his prior career average of 16.9. He's
the NFL's No. 3 rusher, with 224 yards. Only Atlanta's Warrick Dunn (266 yards)
and Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson (241) have gobbled up more real estate.

Jackson is content but also realistic. "It feels pretty good, but I'm fully
aware that it's only two weeks," he said. "This league is a marathon, not a

Jackson, the Rams' first-round choice and the first running back selected in
the 2004 draft, felt as if he couldn't get away from the starting line his
first two seasons. Under pass-happy coach Mike Martz, Jackson's assignments
were sporadic.

He did establish one trend, however: In the five games in which he had 20 or
more carries, Jackson averaged 130.6 yards. The Rams' record in those games was

When he succeeded Martz, Scott Linehan vowed that Jackson would play a larger
role in a more balanced offense. The additional emphasis on the ground game is
apparent, Jackson pointed out.

"We practice the run plays a little more," he said. "And we study together as
an offensive line and running back, run calls and different reads they're going
to make up front. So, I actually know what things mean now.

"Last year, if the offensive line would make a call, nine times out of 10 I
didn't know what they were talking about. I think that's helped a lot, for us
to be in the same room, as far as communication goes."

Jackson (6 feet 2, 231 pounds) often does the bulk of his damage as the game
winds down, an admirable and helpful trait, Linehan noted. "He's a big,
punishing-type runner," Linehan said. "They're harder to tackle as the game
goes on, because they tend to wear you down."

Jackson said, "A lot goes on through the course of a game, and average fans
don't realize that you have to have a feel for what the defense is trying to
do. ... That's when I get my big yards, later on in the game."

Pace upgraded

The sight of seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace on the practice field,
wearing shoulder pads and a white No. 76 jersey, was a welcome site Thursday
for the Rams. "He looks and feels a lot better," Linehan said. "He's made
dramatic improvement from how he felt" Wednesday.

Pace, who suffered a concussion late in the first half Sunday at San Francisco,
did "very limited" work Thursday, Linehan said. Still, he was upgraded to
questionable from doubtful on the injury report.

"I don't think he's symptomatic now," Linehan said. "It's encouraging, but
we're being cautious."

Pace, who has not spoken with reporters this week, will undergo a neurological
examination this afternoon, Linehan said. The results will help determine
whether Pace will play Sunday at Arizona.

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (elbow) practiced in a red no-contact jersey and
remained questionable. Tinoisamoa said he intends to be in the lineup Sunday.


Middle linebacker Will Witherspoon collected a career-high 13 tackles vs. the
*****, the 16th double-digit total during his five seasons. He had nine in the
opener vs. Denver. ... Quarterback Marc Bulger has completed 54.4 percent of
his passes. His career percentage coming into the season was 65.0.

NFL rushing leaders

Name, team Yds. Att. Avg.

1. Warrick Dunn, Atlanta 266 50 5.3

2. Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati 241 51 4.5

3. Steven Jackson, Rams 224 44 5.1

4. Frank Gore, San Francisco 214 45 4.8

5. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego 202 50 4.0

Steven Jackson's 20-carry games

Year Opponent Carries Yds. Avg

2004 San Francisco 26 119 4.6

2004 Philadelphia 24 148 6.2

2005 New Orleans 20 97 4.9

2005 Jacksonville 25 179 7.2

2005 at Houston 25 110 4.4

2006 Denver 22 121 5.5

2006 at San Francisco 22 103 4.7

Totals 164 877* 5.3

*--125.3 average per 20-carry game.