By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch

Tyoka Jackson was playing for Joe Paterno at Penn State the last time he sat out a game because of an injury. "It was a bad ankle sprain," Jackson recalled. "I got hurt and missed half of that game and then the next one."

Through 10 full NFL seasons plus five weeks this year - a span of 165 games - Jackson strapped on his helmet every week. "And I'd only missed one practice," he said proudly.

But unless his slightly torn left hamstring improves dramatically over the weekend, Jackson's streak will come to an end. On Friday, he rated his chances of playing against Tampa Bay on Monday night as "less than 10 percent."

"This is a bad time for me right now ... the thought of missing a game is killing me," he said. "It's tearing my heart out. Especially against these guys."

Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive end, spent five seasons - from 1996 through 2000 -with the Buccaneers. He came to St. Louis as a free agent in 2001, and though he's started only three games for the Rams, he's played in all 53 games as part of defensive line coach Bill Kollar's rotation.

Coach Mike Martz noted that Jackson, 32, has shrugged off various bumps and bruises. "But this thing is pretty hard," Martz said. "When these guys get (problems with) hamstrings, about a week later they feel pretty good, they feel like they can go. You have to make them sit down."

Jackson was injured in the first quarter Sunday in Seattle, and he placed the blame firmly on himself. "I missed a sack, and that's really where the problem started. If I'd have just sacked the guy, we wouldn't be talking about this right now," he said. "But (Matt) Hasselbeck is a strong quarterback who is evasive, and he stepped up in the pocket just as I was trying to hit him, and it slung me around. I guess it just put too much stress on the hamstring."

Because he'd never had a hamstring problem, Jackson said he was "leaning" on the team's medical personnel for direction in his recovery. "I'm working with true professionals," he said. "... It's gotten better every single day."

Thomas, Bulger
are "probables"

Linebacker Robert Thomas, who has been nursing a sore ankle for several weeks, was added to the team's injury report Friday. Thomas is listed as probable, and Martz indicated that he'd play Monday.

Officially, quarterback Marc Bulger still is probable with a bruised right shoulder, but he threw crisply in practice Friday. "He's back to normal," Martz said. "I was very concerned originally. But there's no (bad) effect. He had all the zip that he normally has."

Bulger was injured when he was hit from behind vs. the Seahawks, but Martz didn't know it until after the team returned to St. Louis. "I had no idea he was hurt until the next day," he said. "They told me Marc's got a bruise, and I said, 'He's got what?' He didn't say anything."