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  • Steven Jackson sets the standard

    Steven Jackson sets the standard

    Columnist Jeff Gordon
    By Jeff Gordon

    With his heroic performance Sunday afternoon in Detroit, Steven Jackson underscored his value to a rebuilding problem.

    His ball-carrying skills give the team a much better chance of winning, of course, and that is critical. A team can only learn so much by losing, especially when 17 consecutive defeats stack up on the increasingly frustrated players.

    A team with a broken spirit cannot progress. At 0-7, the Rams were in danger of withering in the face of repetitive failure.

    So Sunday’s victory, however ugly, had great value to the team. Jackson made it happen, almost by himself.

    And that is why Jackson is REALLY valuable to the Rams at this early point in the reconstruction. He willed his team to that 17-10 victory at Detroit, plowing through the Lions (and the odd official) to make that happen.

    “He is an energetic guy,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said after Tuesday’s practice at Rams Park. “He tries to feed that to everybody.”

    What an example he set for the younger Rams struggling to become established n the NFL. What a standard he set for those teammates willing to follow his lead.

    “He’s not just into himself,” Spagnuolo said. “He is into the team doing well.”

    The new coach didn’t know what to expect from his star running back, except his obvious talent. What kind of man was he?

    “I was eager to find out,” Spagnuolo said. “It was a pleasant surprise. It was good to know.”

    Receiver Donnie Avery should be a better player for having Jackson drive this squad. Fellow wideout Keenan Burton could learn from this experience, too. So should offensive tackle Jason Smith, who is just starting to figure out what it will take to succeed in the NFL.

    Jackson has developed a commanding presence in the games, on the practice field and in the locker room. “I welcomed the challenge of trying to help turn this organization around,” he said.

    As Spagnuolo strives to change the culture at Rams Park and create a new beginning for this team, having a star player with such character -– at the age of 26, no less -– is most valuable.

    Imagine if his top running back was Chiefs malcontent Larry Johnson instead. Imagine if he had to put up with what Kansas City coach Todd Haley puts up with.

    Some Rams fans have called for the team to deal Jackson while he is still in his athletic prime, thus allowing the franchise to gain multiple pieces for the ongoing reconstruction. There is some logic to that, given the team’s myriad needs.

    But what good are additional building blocks if there is no foundation to build upon?

    How can young players grow when they are surrounded by unsure and inexperienced teammates?

    To turn this franchise’s fortunes, Spagnuolo must create an environment that fosters rapid development. Take-charge players like Jackson help the coaching staff accomplish that.

    “We still have a lot of work to do out there,” Jackson said. “We want to become a winning organization. We don’t want to get kudos occasionally.”

    Jackson didn’t go south when the team staggered to seven consecutive losses. He didn’t lose his patience or composure. He didn’t slack off. He didn’t pop off, although it was tempting to speak out at times.

    “That’s me knowing that what makes me go, makes me tick, is not helpful to a young team,” he said.

    So he kept quiet, opting not to air grievances through media outlets. He just kept plugging away and encouraging his teammates to do the same.

    “You get tired of starting over,” Jackson said. “We’re going to make it work.”

    When the opportunity arose to win Sunday, he seized it.

    “Seventeen games is a long time,” Jackson said. “I was ready to give everything I had to win that game.”

    That intangible quality means a lot to this group -- more than a couple more draft picks or a few more prospects could ever provide.

Related Topics


  • r8rh8rmike
    Jackson Adjusts To New Coach's Tough Camp
    by r8rh8rmike
    St. Louis Rams' Jackson adjusts to new coach's tough camp

    Earth City, Mo. (Chris Lee/P-D)BY JIM THOMAS

    Chris Chamberlain diagnosed the screen play quickly from his weakside linebacker spot, knifed through traffic and dropped the ballcarrier with a brutal shot around knee level.

    It was one hellacious hit. It just so happened that the ballcarrier was Steven Jackson. You know, the guy who's supposed to be the centerpiece of the Rams' offense. You know, the player many observers consider the only "difference maker" on the roster.

    In those first moments after contact, it looked as if coach Steve Spagnuolo stopped breathing. A blown-out knee can wreck a season just as much as a lengthy training- camp holdout. But Jackson was fine, getting up without injury or noticeable complaint, and heading back to the huddle. Meanwhile, Spagnuolo eyeballed Chamberlain, raising both hands — palms skyward — imploring him to "stay up!" In other words, avoid the low tackling on Jackson.

    "I wasn't even aware of who was in (the backfield)," said Chamberlain, a seventh-round draft pick in 2008 attempting to win a job. "I was out there just trying to make a play."

    As for Jackson, he has gone from training holdout to, well, tackling dummy in 12 short months.

    Last Saturday, on the first day of full-fledged tackling at "Camp Spags,'' Jackson was shocked by the intensity of the hitting during 11-on-11 drills.

    "At first, it kind of threw me for a surprise," Jackson said. "It's definitely quite a shock."

    On Saturday, after getting buried by the defense, Jackson complained to Spagnuolo about a late whistle. Because the whistle is tethered around Spagnuolo's neck, it was an argument Jackson was destined to lose. But Jackson had no complaints Wednesday about Chamberlain's hit or any other hit.

    "It happens in football," he said. "He got a little low. But it's understood. It was an accident. It wasn't anything done intentionally."

    In fact, Jackson was his usual laughing, entertaining self Wednesday during a session with reporters. If the intensity of this camp is wearing on his psyche or his body, it's not showing. It was a clear signal that Jackson is on board. On board with the new regime and what the new head coach is trying to instill in this team at Rams Park.

    Live tackling "is something that's not really routinely done," Jackson said. "But I understand the benefits of it. I'm just trying to go with the flow. I understand that no one is bigger than the team. And if this is what Coach wants to do, I'm willing to at least give everything a try."

    Those are strong words, and words that will resonate throughout the locker room because, like...
    -08-05-2009, 09:01 PM
  • RamFan_Til_I_Die
    Steven Jackson likes what he's seeing in Rams' offseason moves
    by RamFan_Til_I_Die
    Steven Jackson likes what he's seeing in Rams' offseason moves
    Running back says team has gone out and got him help
    BY STEVE KORTE - News-Democrat

    ST. LOUIS -- Steven Jackson feels the St. Louis Rams finally have the pieces in place to be a power running team.

    The Rams added fullback Mike Karney, center Jason Brown and blocking tight end Billy Bajema in free agency, and then took Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

    "They've also made decisions in the draft and free agency to help me out," Jackson said during the team's involuntary minicamp Friday. "That's the biggest thing. You just don't want to throw it all on one guy, and don't give him anything to work with. I think in free agency and the draft, the things that needed to be addressed were addressed.'"

    Though it might look that way, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said he's not trying to build the offense around Jackson.

    "I would never build it around one person," Spagnuolo said. "He's certainly a big part of it, but it is a team thing. I'm a firm believer that in order to win in this league, you have to have good linemen, and that's offensively and defensively. It just so happens we got two offensive guys."

    Jackson is hoping a new fullback and a revamped offensive line will help him prove that he's the best running back in the NFL.

    "Being the best running back is really just a matter of opinion," Jackson said. "I still think I am the best. Fullback, tackle, center -- these are the guys who are going to help me prove what I've been saying for years.

    "I have to continue to work to hard, and at the end of my career, at the end of the day, we'll see where I'm at. Right now, I believe Steven Jackson is the best."

    The Rams ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing last season, but Jackson was able to gain 1,042 despite missing four games because of an injury.

    Jackson has rushed for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, and this year he'll be trying to join Eric Dickerson as the only Rams running backs to accomplish the feat in four straight seasons.

    As far as the areas where he's looking to improve, Jackson said he's focusing on the "little things."

    "In this league, the little things separate the guys who go to the Pro Bowl, the guys who end up in Canton (home of Pro Football Hall of Fame)," Jackson said. "You have to continue to work on your route running, continue to anticipate your run reads, you have to make sure you're not giving the defenses a key on something because Sunday there is no time to think, it's just reaction."

    Jackson said he has tried to build a camaraderie with 5-foot-11, 255-pound Karney.

    "We've been to dinner a couple...
    -05-03-2009, 08:42 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Learning To Lead: The Evolution Of Steven Jackson
    by r8rh8rmike
    Learning to Lead: The Evolution of Steven Jackson
    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    “Our response to an offense determines our future.” – Author John Bevere, “The Bait of Satan.”

    Right there in black and white for his eyes to see, Steven Jackson constantly goes back to this book. It’s one of his favorites though if you ask him to name them it might take a while because he’s constantly diving into a new one.

    On the surface, passages like the one above might seem simple. Then again, on the surface, a person might be viewed the same way.

    What you don’t know is how complicated something or someone can be when you dig a littler deeper. In the case of Steven Jackson, a little closer look can reveal something you never would have guessed or even attempted to try.


    At the conclusion of nearly every Rams practice, a few players always lag behind the group on the long walk back to the locker room. Some stay behind and catch passes, others work on footwork. They all do it by choice but some undoubtedly do it because that’s what Jackson does.

    Jackson is the one who will quickly peel off his pads and run extra gassers, not because he’s out of shape but because it sets the right example of what it takes to be successful.

    The Rams have the fourth-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of right around 26. Coincidentally, Jackson is the same age. But because he entered the league when he was only 20, Jackson’s ascent to a leadership role has happened quicker than most.

    As he’s grown and developed as a player, he’s seen players come and go and just now, in 2009, has he taken it upon himself to become the leader of this young group.

    “I have seen nothing but great things,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “His greatness in that regard, in the leadership regard is shining right now when it’s not the best of times and the results haven’t been what we want. I’m not going to share with you one other thing but there was something he did that meant the world to me and I appreciated him and how he’s gone about things right now.”

    Growing up in Las Vegas, Jackson’s lessons in leadership began at an early age. His father, Steve, practically majored in the subject as a Marine veteran in the Vietnam War.

    That meant plenty of “yes, sir” and “no, sir” in the Jackson household but it also began a cultivation process in the planting of those seeds of leadership.

    Jackson learned a lot of the details from his father, things like always being on time, keeping your word and being dressed presentably for every occasion. Those little things that can determine one’s character.

    “You have to go through a maturation of becoming a leader,” Jackson said. “Everyone doesn’t have leadership qualities but those...
    -10-08-2009, 09:20 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Jackson Ready For Postseason Push
    by r8rh8rmike
    Jackson Ready for Postseason Push
    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

    Posted 2 hours ago

    As a rookie coming to a team that was coming off a playoff season in 2003, Steven Jackson had high expectations for playing a lot of January football.

    In that first season, Jackson and the Rams managed to make it to the playoffs with an 8-8 record, beat Seattle in the wild card round and go on to lose to Atlanta in a Divisional Playoff game.

    It was Jackson’s first taste of postseason football in the league. As of today, it was his last.

    With the Rams on the brink of potentially breaking through and going back to the postseason should they win their final two games, Jackson is making no bones about the fact that he wants badly to go back.

    “I know personally my first year we went to the second round of the playoffs, I thought it would be a year in and year out deal and it hasn’t been so,” Jackson said. “So you just really hope these young guys understand the position they are in and take advantage of it.”

    The position the Rams are in is simple: to get to the playoff, win the final two games and the NFC West Division.

    That starts this week with Sunday’s showdown against San Francisco at the Edward Jones Dome.

    Needless to say, it’s a must win, do or die situation. And with that in mind, Jackson has also made it abundantly clear that for as much as he possibly can, he wants the onus and the load put on him to get the Rams back to the promised land.

    “This is a game that we all know in the city and around here is a must win,” Jackson said. “These kind of games, these kind of pressure situations is what I live for. It’s something I thrive in I believe. I have all the confidence in the world in me and the offensive line. I know I can’t do it on my own but when it comes to these situations – let’s go back to old Steven – I think the best player should have the ball.”

    With the ***** coming to town, Jackson and the Rams will undoubtedly have another tough task. San Francisco’s run defense is ranked seventh in the league and has made it a point to slow down Jackson by loading the box repeatedly when the teams meet.

    Still, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has no qualms with Jackson’s desire to be the bellcow to bring home an important win this or any other week.
    “I’m glad to hear that he wants to have a big stake in what happens,” Shurmur said. “Obviously, Steven, when he touches the ball he does good things with it. So he will touch the ball.”

    A noted fan of the game who knows the league’s history as well as any player, Jackson views the chance to get back to the postseason as something to savor.

    “Absolutely,” Jackson said. “When you talk about great players, some of the great ones that even wore this uniform, they were known for their postseason play more...
    -12-23-2010, 04:22 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Jackson Energized By Adventurous Offseason
    by r8rh8rmike
    Jackson Energized by Adventurous Offseason
    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Lying on an operating table following back surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back in early April, Steven Jackson couldn’t help but let his mind drift to the idea of football mortality.

    In his six years in the NFL, Jackson had never suffered an injury serious enough that he had to undergo offseason surgery let alone feel any pain of any kind that extended beyond a normal three to four week rest period in January.

    But for the first time, Jackson was going to have an offseason quite different from any of his previous ones.

    It was then and there that Jackson decided to cut it loose and take a different approach to how he’d spend his summer vacation.

    “I had uncertainty in my health for the majority of the offseason and was not really enjoying myself,” Jackson said. “It allowed me to really think about the NFL and sometimes you think you can play this game forever. It was a reality check, one that I was probably taking for granted because I have always been healthy for the most part. This time I had to rehab, go through the operation. I was constantly working and not enjoying myself in my down time. Once the back was feeling good and I was feeling physically fit, I wanted to take advantage of my opportunities to enjoy myself.”


    Each offseason, Jackson makes it a point to try to see at least one new country, if not more. Long before the surgery, Jackson had already planned to venture to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

    In addition to South Africa, he’d also planned to make stops in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Along the way, Jackson initially figured he’d see the historical sites, tour the land and sample the local food.

    At some point during the back issues, Jackson morphed into the Vinnie Chase character from Entourage who used a back injury of his own to develop a desire for thrill seeking adventures.

    So Jackson called his travel agent and added shark diving, three safaris and sand dune hikes to his itinerary.

    “I just kind of wanted to go into overcoming fears and living outside the lines and boundaries,” Jackson said. “You hear people all the time say that your mind traps you in fear. I kind of tried to step outside of myself and mimic somewhat of a daredevil. This year, I told my travel agent ‘let’s walk on the wild side a little bit.’”

    Of all of the heart pounding exploits on his trip, it was the first one that really set the tone.

    On his first day in Cape Town, Jackson hopped on a boat and was ferried to an area known as Seal Island, where great white sharks are known to congregate in large groups.

    After a bit of trepidation, Jackson climbed into a cage, was hooked up to an...
    -09-07-2010, 03:53 PM