St. Louis Rams training camp opened this weekend, and for Steven Jackson and his teammates, that meant one thing: contact.
As Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat reported, the Rams’ first practices on Saturday were more scrimmage-like than your average 11-on-11 drills and featured plenty of hitting, even to the franchise player.
The aggressive start to camp is a part of new Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s plan to toughen up the team that finished last in the NFC West in 2008 with a 2-14 record. So the Rams will be hitting hard all summer, even if it means that Spagnuolo has to hope and pray every time S-Jax takes a lick, as quoted by Korte:
“I have my hands behind my back crossing my fingers,” Spagnuolo said of the injury risk.
SJax takes a handoff from Marc Bulger in practice (courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
But as Korte notes after a conversation with a few Rams defenders, everyone knows who the franchise is, so there will be no rough shots on No. 39.
“We know how much Steven means to us, so we’re not going to take cheap shots,” cornerback Ron Bartell said. “They are going to hit Steven. He needs the work, and so do we. Normally, me being a (defensive back), I’d go low on him, but I won’t go low on him in practice.”
Steven has no problem with taking a few licks and he plans on dishing a few out himself before the season starts, as quoted by Korte:
“(I) definitely want to get some hits early,’’ Jackson said. “Get the body ready … wake it up. It is football time, and as the season approaches, kind of back off and (then when) Week 1 comes, amp it back up.”
Spagnuolo claims the idea of full-contact is to find out what he has in his new team, what needs to be worked on and what they should spend this final summer month addressing. He believes the best way to do that is actually playing a little football, not just running drills, as quoted by Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“We need to find out quickly,” Spagnuolo told reporters after the spirited session. “You’ve got to remember, again, it’s a whole new staff and a lot of unknowns. Really, the only way to find out is to put them in those kinds of situations. As we go along here every day we’ll just decide how many of those periods will be live.”
PLAY HARD, TRAIN HARDER
As has been chronicled, Steven has the made the most of his offseason, committing himself to strength and endurance training as he prepares for what he hopes will be one of his biggest seasons as a pro.
In his first interviews with media of training camp, S-Jax explained his offseason workout plan, as quoted by Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“I really approached weight training a lot more aggressively,” he said. “The past three or four years, I focused on conditioning to make sure my lungs were strong. But this year, I really focused on weight lifting to make sure I’m strong.”
No. 39 told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that he credits Spagnuolo and the new philosophies that he has brought to the team with helping change his workout regimen through strength and conditioning:
“It’s something we all did in college—squats, power cleans, all those Olympic lifts—but we’ve had the machines around since I’ve been here until now,” Rams running back Steven Jackson said. “You get re-acclimated. It brings a different mindset and body to the program. I like it. Anything beats what’s happened here lately.”
Steven even showed up to Rams camp a few days early to start getting his work in, but even at 10 p.m. one night, No. 39 wasn’t alone, as quoted by Korte in the News-Democrat:
“I had been on the West Coast for four or five weeks and I wanted to get acclimated to the climate again, and the time zone, and just get those nervous jitters out,’’ Jackson said. “It was a good thing to get on the treadmill. I tried to come late. I didn’t expect anyone to be here, but, of course, coach is a hard worker and he caught me.”
In a feature for the News-Democrat, Korte profiles S-Jax, his role on the new look Rams and his outlook on the season ahead:
“The feeling is definitely back,’’ Jackson said. “I am really excited to get started this year. Two-fourteen (the Rams’ 2008 record) is definitely in the rear, and we’re really looking forward to the season and what we can do with it.”
To read the entire article, click here.
For many football lovers, August doesn’t just mean training camp time; it also means fantasy football draft time.
For the past few years, Steven has been ranked among the top running backs in the league and 2009 is no different. It’s pretty much a given that No. 39 will once again be a first round pick in most drafts with rankings putting him anywhere from third to 11th overall.
In AOL Fanhouse’s Rams team Fantasy Preview, Matt Snyder points out that Steven is obviously St. Louis’ most valuable fantasy asset as well:
“When Jackson plays, he’s a monster. Last season…he averaged almost 130 yards from scrimmage when he was on the field. He scored 8 touchdowns in 11 games (he’s technically listed with 12 games, but remember: One game he suited up and didn’t see the field). The big knock is that he always misses games. The one time he did play every game in a season he had 2,334 yards and 16 touchdowns. There was a passing game behind him, but Spagnuolo has been praising Jackson as a star of offseason workouts for both his talent and his work ethic.”
Snyder points out that the change in offensive schemes shouldn’t present S-Jax with much of a problem and it’s very likely it will make him a mid-first round steal.
“The Rams are going to use a run-heavy West Coast offense—with Jackson as the clear-cut focal point—this year, so he’ll be racking up rushing and receiving yards at a ridiculous pace. He’s worth a mid-first-round pick at the latest in my mind.”
THEY SAID IT
“So, it’s just going to be a matter of finding out what I can do well in this offense. I think we all know 39 is going to be the center point of it.” – Rams Quarterback Marc Bulger on his role and St. Louis’ offensive strategy, as quoted on St. Louis Rams blog, Ramblin’ Fan.
Is Steven Jackson ready for some football? Rams coach convinced he is (Belleville News-Democrat, August 2, 2009)
Strong offseason should benefit Jackson (STL Today Rams Report, August 2, 2009)
Rams ‘better have some attitude (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 2009)
Rams decide to get physical; Spags dials it up (Belleville News-Democrat, August 2, 2009)
Spagnuolo changing culture in St. Louis (ESPN.com, August 3, 2009)
Fantasy Football Team Preview: Rams (AOL Fanhouse, July 30, 2009)
A look at Steven Jackson (New York Newsday, August 4, 2009)
So Far, So Good (Ramblin’ Fan, July 31, 2009)
I was at last nights game, only a week removed from an unforgettable experience at training camp. After getting attention from a lot of the players who seemed to recognize me after 4 days at camp, I was stunned when a security guard tossed me a Rams cap and said Steven wanted to thank me for being a good supporter of the team. It was a game used autographed hat Steven Jackson was wearing throughout the game. I cannot say enough of the the way the staff and players treat their fans…Rams fan for life!!