By Jim Thomas
Sunday, Feb. 25 2007

INDIANAPOLIS Indianapolis had Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. Chicago
countered with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. New England used Corey Dillon
and Laurence Maroney. For New Orleans, it was Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush.

The top teams in the NFL last season had a 1-2 punch at running back, and the
Rams would like to join that trend to some degree in 2007.

Make no mistake, Pro Bowler Steven Jackson will remain the centerpiece of the
offense in St. Louis. But coach Scott Linehan thinks that having a reliable
backup will be better for the Rams and better for Jackson.

"Steven understands," Linehan told reporters Saturday at the NFL scouting
combine. "He basically took on every role that he could possibly have as a back
last season. He was our starting tailback. ... He was in there on third down
when we lost (Tony) Fisher. He was utilized in short-yardage. He was a good
pass protector."

As a topper, Jackson ended up leading all NFL running backs in receptions, with
90. Put it all together, and Jackson had 436 "touches" in 2006, second only to
Kansas City's Larry Johnson (457).

"He knows that those (touches) will start wearing on him if he keeps up that
pace," Linehan said. "He knows there's going to be times where he's going to
have someone lighten his load a little bit."

Jackson told the Post-Dispatch last week that he was amenable to getting some
help in the backfield.

"I think that shows a lot of maturity on his part to look at it and say we can
utilize another player," Linehan said. "I think he also watches a lot of these
teams that were very successful this year. A lot of them had 1-2 punches in the

"We've talked to him about it. That's part of the communication process that
you have to have. Just because you draft a running back, or draft a
quarterback, doesn't mean you still don't covet the player you have. ... We're
just giving our team some depth, and we're going to need all the players that
we can add to this team to get over the hump."

One thing appears certain: Jackson's '07 backup won't be Marshall Faulk. Faulk
has dropped hints in recent interviews and public appearances about playing
again. While recognizing Faulk's immense contributions in St. Louis, Linehan
and Rams management are ready to move on.

"He's had no conversations with me," Linehan said. "I don't know how much there
really is there. If he truly wanted to play, I'm sure he would've approached me
about it. I've been here for 14 months."

Linehan said the last time he spoke to Faulk was before the team's mandatory
minicamp last June.

"We've moved on as far as the position," Linehan said. "I thought Steven
(Jackson) had a fabulous year for us. ... We just kind of moved forward, and
that's what you've got to do. Unfortunately, age and injuries are part of the

It's a delicate situation for the Rams because they'd like to avoid cutting
Faulk. They would rather he made a formal retirement announcement.

Faulk turns 34 Monday, and battled knee injuries during most of his final
seasons in St. Louis. He was paid $2 million in 2006, spending the entire year
on the physically unable to perform list. He has two years remaining on a
four-year contract extension signed in 2005, and is scheduled to make $2.6
million in base salary this season.

Stephen Davis proved to be a nice stop-gap last season, and was a good mentor
for Jackson. But continuing knee problems limited Davis' ability not only in
games, but in practice as well.

Fisher began '06 as the Rams' third-down back before suffering a season-ending
knee injury in Game 8 against Kansas City.

"Both are very big question marks," Linehan said. "In the right situation, we'd
entertain having Stephen back. But he's not going to be able to go through any
of the camp. He's at the end. ... And 'Fish,' he had pretty extensive knee
surgery. We'll get to him at some point and evaluate where he's at later in
free agency."

So it's looking more and more like Jackson's backup in '07 will join the team
via the draft or free agency.

As for Faulk?

"I think he does want to play," said former Rams head coach Mike Martz, now
offensive coordinator in Detroit. "I don't think he's slowed down much. I think
he's got some gas left in the tank. I think it'll be a hard decision for him.
I'd like to see him play, obviously.

"He's got so much history with the Rams, I think the appropriate thing is to
end his career (in St. Louis) and move on."