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Steven Jackson likes atmosphere ..
BY BILL COATS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wandering through a darkened Rams Park a few nights ago, coach Steve Spagnuolo discovered someone on a treadmill in the trainers' room. It was Steven Jackson, his star running back, getting in some pre-camp conditioning.
"I tried to come in late, and I didn't expect anyone to be here," Jackson said. "But Coach caught me."
A year ago, Jackson was nowhere to be found when training camp opened. In fact, he went 0 for Mequon, Wis., holding out for 27 days before getting a new contract. He finally showed up at Rams Park on Aug. 21.
This year, he was on site early. No big deal, Jackson insisted.
"I'd been on the West Coast for four or five weeks, and I wanted to get acclimated to the climate again and to the time zone, and just get the nervous jitters out," he explained. "It was a good thing."
Jackson acknowledged that much has changed in the last 12 months. "It's definitely a different feeling. Football is first around here now," he said. "Everyone is committed to winning, and we're really trying to stick to not putting anyone above the team."
Thus, Jackson probably won't be spouting any personal goals for his sixth NFL season. Instead, he's spending extra time meeting and greeting.
"I know it's been a couple of months since the changes have been made, but there are new faces around and you want to get to know everyone," he said. "And that's from the locker room all the way up to the front office."
Jackson and the rest of the full 80-man squad were on the field for the first time Friday, as Spagnuolo directed a quick-paced, 85-minute workout. Afterward, Jackson scooped up 3-year-old son Skyler and declared that "the feeling's definitely back."
"I'm really excited to get started early this year," he added. "I'm glad all the rookies are here, and I think (practice) went really smoothly. You could tell the transition from (organized team activities) is carrying over. There weren't a lot of mental mistakes out there."
Today will bring a new challenge: Spagnuolo will have his outfit in full pads for the morning practice. Jackson smiled at the prospect.
"I just hope everybody has their chin straps buckled," he said. "You definitely want to get some hits early, get the body waking up and make sure it knows it's football time."
BURTON LOOKS TO STAY HEALTHY
After enduring a series of nagging injuries, priority one for second-year wideout Keenan Burton is simple: stay on the field.
"Some things, you just can't help. You prepare, you work hard, you lift as hard as you possibly can," he said, shrugging. "I definitely feel a need to stay healthy and be out here to compete."
Ankle and knee injuries slowed Burton during his senior year at Kentucky, and two games into his rookie NFL season, he tore knee cartilage. He missed three games after undergoing surgery.
This spring, he pulled a hamstring that again sent him to the sideline. "That was devastating," he said. "But I can't get frustrated ... just got to keep chipping away."
Burton was healed and hauling in passes Friday. "It's feeling good; everything's a go," he said. "I'm trying to shake off the cobwebs, get back into it and just have fun."
Two practices are scheduled for today, starting at 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Both are open to the public. ... Guard John Greco suited up but didn't take part in Friday's workout after cramping up at the team's conditioning run in the morning. ... The team's top draftees, tackle Jason Smith and linebacker James Laurinaitis, remained with the No. 2 units. ... Larry Grant worked with the first team at strong side linebacker. ... Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson were the first-team wideouts.
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