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Jackson rides the bus to his first NFL camp

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  • Jackson rides the bus to his first NFL camp

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - Steven Jackson had a practical reason for taking the "rookie bus" to training camp, something Rams first-round draft picks rarely do.

    "I didn't want to get lost," said Jackson, a running back from Oregon State. "I caused enough drama over the last week. What if the first-rounder gets lost? That'd be a little more news for you guys. So, I figured I'd just hop on the bus and it'd be a little easier for me."

    Jackson worked his way into coach Mike Martz's doghouse last week when he was a no-show for a rookie session at Rams Park. Martz scolded Jackson publicly, emphasizing that he would be listed No. 4 on the depth chart when camp started, behind Marshall Faulk, Lamar Gordon and Arlen Harris.

    "Whether you're drafted in the first round or the seventh round, whatever you get, you earn; that's what this league is all about," Martz said Tuesday night after players had reported to Western Illinois University. "There was a misconception that he was going to come in and play right away . .. because he's Steven Jackson. Well, Lamar and Arlen and these other guys have got something to say about that.

    "This is a very competitive league, and he needs to come in and compete. And my message to Steven was exactly that."

    Jackson said he got the point, loud and clear.

    "He's saying I'm not a special guy, that I'm going to be held to the same standards as everyone else," he said. "I don't have any hard feelings toward Coach Martz. Hopefully we can have a great relationship."

    After signing a five-year contract Sunday, Jackson deposited his $4 million signing bonus in the bank and packed his bags.

    "I just treated it like I was going to college, going back to a dormitory," he said. "So, I've got my pillows, my CD player, PlayStation 2, of course. Just the essentials."

    The bus riders arrived at 2:30 p.m.; the first practice was scheduled for 8:10 this morning.

    Fourth-round pick Brandon Chillar, a linebacker from UCLA, said he was "anxious and excited" heading into his first NFL camp. "That's been my goal, to make it to the NFL," he said. "Now that I'm here, I want to see what I can do."

    Quarterback Jeff Smoker, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State, said he expected the 3 1/2-week stay in Macomb to be a challenge, physically and mentally.

    "Camp's obviously going to be tough," he said. "There are going to be a lot of things going on, a lot of things thrown at us, being rookies. I'm getting ready to learn a lot."

    Jackson said he anticipated plenty of bumps and bruises.

    "A lot of pain," he said, laughing.

    But he added that he was eager to shove aside any doubts about his preparation and commitment.

    "I have a lot to prove to my teammates, that I'm not one of those selfish guys, that I'm worth what I signed for, and what I'm capable of doing here is not hype," he said. "I stressed to (agent) Rocky Arceneaux that I wanted to be here on time to show my teammates that I'm dedicated to this organization."

    Third-rounder signs

    Another bus passenger was defensive end Anthony Hargrove of Georgia Tech, the team's third-round choice. Hargrove signed a three-year contract at Rams Park on Tuesday morning, then climbed aboard. Hargrove was the last of the team's seven draft choices to join the fold; financial terms of his deal weren't disclosed.

    "We're ready to go," Martz said. "Looking around the league, I feel very fortunate that we've got them all here."

    Landeta: Season 23

    Standing in direct contrast to those players coming to camp for the first time is Sean Landeta: This is No. 23 for the 42-year-old punter. Still, he said the annual ritual never is drudgery.

    "To me, it's always exciting," he said. "To get a chance to play another year is very precious. It's always nice to be back.

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Jackson puts emphasis on leading by example
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - After a week of resort-like weather, heat and humidity swooped down Tuesday on the football fields at Western Illinois University. Some players might have enjoyed a day off under the steamy conditions. But not Rams defensive end Tyoka Jackson, who was forced to the sideline with a banged-up left leg.

    "When I'm not practicing, there's extra work for my teammates, and I don't like to do that," Jackson said. "Football is a game of ongoing skill development, and every day that you miss a practice you're missing a day to get better, to get your skills developed more. And so I'm not happy about it."

    Jackson, 32, is one of the team's five full-time captains for the second year in succession, and he takes those duties seriously.

    "I always respected all the captains I've ever been around, from high school through college and in the NFL," he said. "Now that it's been bestowed on me, I take it personal. It's a great honor."

    Among his responsibilities, Jackson said, is to demonstrate a high level of dedication.

    "All leaders who are worth anything are leaders by example, and you can't lead by example when you're watching everyone else work," he said. "There are going to be nicks and scrapes; I'm just thankful it's not a big-time, serious injury."

    Coach Mike Martz said Jackson is "what we'd like everybody to use as a role model in that respect, in terms of competing, being a pro, a team player, all those things."

    Jackson provides relief for starter Leonard Little on the left side and often moves inside on third-down situations. Jackson played in all 16 regular-season games last year, with four starts. He totaled 45 tackles, with 5 1/2 sacks. Both were career highs for Jackson, who is starting his 10th season in the NFL.

    Jackson, a Penn State product who was not drafted in 1994 but was signed by Miami, has played with the Rams for three seasons. He said his time in the league has flown by.

    "In a lot of ways I still feel like I'm the same guy who was fighting for my life coming in as an undrafted free agent," he said. "I feel that was the biggest injustice of my career. That's never going to leave me.

    "I'm always going to be the guy in my heart who's fighting to get respect and fighting for a job every single year. That keeps me on edge, keeps me getting better."

    On Wednesday morning, Jackson was back on the practice field.

    A lot to learn

    Few NFL rookies face the kind of challenge that confronts quarterback Jeff Smoker, the Rams' sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan State. He is charged with mastering the bulging playbook that contains the details of Martz's intricate offense. ...
    -08-05-2004, 05:34 AM
  • RamWraith
    Jackson still has much to learn
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - Before Steven Jackson arrived in Macomb two weeks ago, the running back's NFL experience consisted of one weekend at the Rams' post-draft rookie minicamp.

    So he's way behind. Behind the other rookies; behind the younger running backs on the depth chart; and light years behind Marshall Faulk. Two weeks into his first NFL training camp, Jackson still is playing catch-up.

    "With this offense, my head's probably going to be spinning for a while until I really get comfortable in it," Jackson said. "Once I get comfortable with this offense, that's when my true talent can take over. But until then, I'm going to be thinking and trying not to mess up."

    By NFL rule, Jackson couldn't participate in offseason work with the team, other than the rookie minicamp, until his college's senior class graduated. In the case of Oregon State, Jackson's school, that didn't happen until mid-June.

    By then, the Rams were shutting down their offseason program for the summer, giving players and coaches some down time before heading to Macomb.

    Much to the chagrin of Martz, Jackson also decided to skip a rookie session held at Rams Park just before the start of training camp.

    In any event, Jackson arrived cold - stone cold in terms of knowing the playbook.

    "He's still green at it," running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said. "He's got a lot to learn. The adjustments are coming. We're going to ride him really, really hard, because we want him to be at his best."

    A lot to learn

    For now, the Rams want Jackson humble and hungry. So far in camp, Martz hasn't missed a chance to prod Jackson whenever he felt it was necessary.

    During one practice session, when Jackson apparently lined up in the wrong spot, Martz bellowed: "What are you doing out here, sleepwalking?"

    On Friday, during the joint practice sessions with the Bears, Martz hardly proclaimed Jackson game-ready.

    "We still have to give him run reads, and let him know what's going on with some things," Martz said. "He's a long ways away. He is a long, long, long, long - let me say that one more time - l-o-n-g ways away from lining up and being effective."

    Jackson has taken the rookie hazing in stride.

    "I prepared for it mentally and physically this offseason and summer," Jackson said. "I had my dad yell at me a couple times."

    Jackson laughed at his joke, then added, "Everything that he's thrown out to me, I'm dealing with it pretty well. I know it's for the best. When he stops yelling at me, that's when you start worrying."

    Some of Martz's bombast is done as a way of keeping the first-round draft pick's...
    -08-10-2004, 05:52 AM
  • RamWraith
    Storm prompts team to end camp
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - The exodus began about 6 p.m. Thursday, less than an hour after Rams coach Mike Martz abruptly declared an early end to Camp Macomb.

    "We've got a big storm coming in tonight, so I told them to get out of here," Martz said. "I don't want them driving home in the rain in the morning. It's supposed to rain all night and well into (today). So, we wouldn't get anything out of a morning practice out here, obviously."

    The team practiced twice Thursday and was scheduled for a morning workout today before checking out of Thompson Hall and returning to St. Louis. Instead, Martz planned a light practice for this afternoon at Rams Park.

    "We'll reorganize down there," he said. "We had a heck of a camp up here. We came out of this thing healthy; the injury list is minimal compared with what it's been in past years. We've had good tempo, the work's been outstanding. I'm pleased with where we are."

    The Rams will practice Saturday and Sunday evenings. Their second of four exhibition games is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

    Hargrove moves

    Rookie Anthony Hargrove said he'd heard scuttlebutt about his moving to defensive tackle from defensive end. But when it became reality, he still was stunned.

    "It's kind of a shocking thing, something that I never thought really would happen," said Hargrove, the Rams' third- round draft choice. "It's one of those things that's in the back of your mind, but when it happens, you're really just kind of caught off-guard."

    Martz indicated that the strong play of Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers at right end provided an opportunity to get a look at Hargrove on the inside. He worked at tackle Wednesday and Thursday, and pronounced himself "happy to take the challenge."

    "Coach Martz told me that he thinks the way I come off the ball and the way I play, that's a natural fit for me," Hargrove said. "I think it's going to be a real comfortable move for me."

    Veteran defensive end Tyoka Jackson likes the idea, too.

    "He's 6-4, 285 (or so), probably the strongest dude on the team, as fast as Leonard (Little) ... yeah, I'm cool with that," Jackson said. "He's going to make his mistakes because he's young, he's a rookie. But he's going to make his plays, too."

    Jensen returns

    A long and trying stretch on the injury list finally came to an end for rookie Erik Jensen, who practiced in full pads Thursday for the first time since suffering a sprained knee ligament in the first week of camp.

    Jensen, a seventh-round draft pick, said as time wore on, his frustration grew.

    "You want to come in and...
    -08-20-2004, 06:34 AM
  • RamDez
    It's tough to sing the praises of these rookies
    by RamDez
    It's tough to sing the praises of these rookies
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

    The other day in training camp, defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson was asked to
    assess the performances of the rookies.

    "They've been doing a really good job," Jackson said. "I've been impressed
    specifically by about three or four of them. I like (Jason) Shivers. Shivers is
    playing great. (Anthony) Hargrove, I think. . . ."

    Jackson was interrupted right there. Not their playing performances. Their
    singing performances.

    "Oh," Jackson said. "Singing-wise. We've got no talent there. I haven't seen
    one guy who should be doing anything other than football."

    A sampler of the play list:

    After getting booed off stage in his first attempt, first-round draft pick
    Steven Jackson passed muster with Will Smith's intro to "Fresh Prince of
    Bel-Air." But he was far from overwhelming.

    "My record deal is probably going to go down the tubes," he said.

    Seventh-round center Larry Turner performed the Righteous Brothers' "You've
    Lost That Loving Feeling" to generally bad reviews.

    "He was hurting," veteran reviewer Adam Timmerman said.

    Sixth-round quarterback Jeff Smoker bombed with something from BoyzIIMen.

    "It was pretty rough," Timmerman noted.

    Third-round defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove got by with a shaky rendition of
    the Georgia Tech fight song.

    He skipped entire sections of the song. "But nobody knew," he said. "They all
    just laughed."

    They were laughing because many of Hargrove's teammates think he looks like
    rapper 50 Cent. "Which I don't believe at all," Hargrove said.

    Undrafted quarterback Russ Michna sang, "I Believe I Can Fly."

    And those weren't even the worst efforts.

    "I think Brandon Chillar was particularly bad," coach Mike Martz said.

    Chillar, a fourth-round linebacker, was so bad that he's this year's winner of
    the unofficial McDonald Award - so named for wide receiver Shaun McDonald after
    his performance in '03.

    "Mac started off last year with the worst performance ever in the history of
    all rookies," Martz said. "But Chillar was right there."

    While the Rams were in Macomb, Ill., Martz called rookies up at random at the
    end of team meetings for what he calls "rookie entertainment." This year, he
    gave them the option of either singing or telling jokes.

    In his first two attempts, Chillar tried jokes. Jay Leno has nothing to worry

    -08-22-2004, 12:08 AM
  • RamDez
    Yellow is Jackson's signal to speed up
    by RamDez
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Jul. 30 2005

    On reporting day, Rams running back Steven Jackson was issued his equipment
    with the rest of his teammates. To his surprise, he was handed a yellow jersey.

    "I didn't know if it was for a photo shoot or something," Jackson said.

    The yellow jersey was for use in practice, and both Jackson and Marshall Faulk
    got one Wednesday on the eve of training camp. The jersey signifies that
    defensive teammates must keep their hands off Jackson and Faulk in practice.

    Yellow means caution.

    Three days into camp, Jackson is running with anything but caution. To wit:

    * He basically ran over defensive end Anthony Hargrove on Thursday
    during a nine-on-seven run period.

    * Next, he shoved defensive back Michael Stone away when Stone made
    a little too much contact with that yellow jersey - and Jackson.

    * The topper came Saturday when Jackson and safety Adam Archuleta
    got into a scuffle after Archuleta thumped Jackson hard, too hard for Jackson's

    "They're two competitive warriors, and they love that part of the game,"
    running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said. "It's me against you. . . . And
    Steven's going to show you he's not going to shy away from any contact."

    As he begins his tenure as the Rams' starting running back, Jackson isn't
    shying away from anything.

    "It's early, but I would say 'Big Train' is working hard," Montgomery said.
    "It's like he's picked up right where he's left off in minicamp. He came back
    with the right attitude. The intensity is great. He's focused. He wants to be a
    young leader. He's showing a lot of toughness right now."

    He's showing all that and more. Almost all elite runners in the NFL have a
    certain confidence about them, and Jackson has that air about him as well.

    "But he's been that way since he got here," coach Mike Martz said. "He has that
    aura about him of a guy like Marshall and Isaac (Bruce). He has that special
    way of carrying himself, and that quiet confidence that makes him special."

    Martz believes Jackson has the makings of something special. Otherwise, he
    wouldn't have named him the starter way back in February.

    "I just have visions of him doing great things. I really do," Martz said. "I
    think Steven's capable of being a dominant back, ultimately. Obviously, he's
    not there yet.

    "He has the quickness, the agility of that little guy. And he's that power
    runner as well. He can run through those arm tackles and be very physical. We
    can play power football with him down after down. He can take that punishment."...
    -07-30-2005, 11:47 PM