After many long months, the offseason training is complete, the drills are over, the 2009-10 campaign is finally here, and Steven Jackson is ready.
This Sunday, the season opens in Seattle when SJax and the St. Louis Rams take the field for their opening week game against their NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
But Steven has been preparing for this moment for a while, as quoted last week in the Belleville News-Democrat.
"I am ready,” Jackson said. "I feel like we have been practicing forever. It goes back to March. Although we haven’t been in front of a live audience, we have been going at this for a while."
No. 39 received very little playing time in preseason games, carrying only 10 times in for 37 yards — totals he could easily eclipse in the first quarter of Sunday’s game in Seattle.
But as Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the team has been careful with the use of their star running back in meaningless games, knowing that the team’s success this season is tied directly to the legs of No. 39.
"He sure looks ready to go," Spagnuolo said. "And he’s been a consummate pro. It’s not easy for a competitive guy like that to be standing on the sideline when everybody else is playing. But I ask him to just bear with us. There’s a plan, you know, there’s a reason why we’re doing it."
All the same, Steven has made the most of every carry he’s gotten, practicing the skills he’ll need to utilize come Sunday.
"I do know that when I carry the ball, I have to protect it, I make my correct run reads, catch the ball when it’s thrown to me, and once again protect Marc (Bulger)," S-Jax told the Belleville News-Democrat. "I just have to come out there and be me, and the rest of it will take care of itself."
INTERVIEWED ON ESPN
Steven started Wednesday off with an interview on ESPN’s First Take. In the broadcast, he covered everything from how excited he is for the coming season to web series, "In the Life With Steven Jackson," which can be viewed at http://inthelife.sj39.com.
Here’s the online version of the interview, which focuses exclusively on the Steven and the Rams’ chances in 2009.
S-JAX SLIDES INTO NEW SCHEME
When the Rams take the field on Sunday, it will be Steven’s first official game in the new offensive scheme, brought to the Rams by new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. In an article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Bill Coats examines the new system and examines each player’s role in it.
"It’s a fun offense, and it’s a proven winner," Steven said. "As we see time and time again, teams that run this kind of offense are among the tops in the NFL when it comes to offensive statistics."
One thing is for sure about the new system, No. 39 will play a big role. Coats believes the Rams will use S-Jax the way that the Eagles have used Brian Westbrook.
"I’m going to do my best to be an incredible threat on the field each and every Sunday," he promised, "and trust in my teammates that they’re going to do the same."
To read more on the offense and Steven’s place in it, click here.
BIG BACKS — A DYING BREED
In a feature for Yahoo! Sports, Charles Robinson examined Steven as one of the few big running backs left in the league.
"It is a dying breed – the big back," Jackson says, tilting back in a chair and unfolding every ounce of his 6-2, 235-pound frame. With running backs trending toward the lithe and diminutive, he knows his sheer size makes him a unicorn among the elites. Even Kansas City’s Larry Johnson and a bulked-up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota are slightly smaller. "This is why I take such pride in being productive, showing that all teams don’t have to use the multiple-back system. The Bo Jackson, the Walter Payton, the Marcus Allen – the guys who don’t come off the field. That breed is not ‘round anymore. I kind of feel like I’m that generation."
S-Jax goes on to say that he hates the two-back offense, despite the relief it provides for featured backs. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger feels the Rams don’t need it with No. 39 in the backfield.
"I think he can still be a guy that carries us," Bulger said. "He’s going to take hits no matter what. Even if he’s on the field and doesn’t have the ball in his hands, teams are sending a blitzer or someone else to him and hitting him. That’s just like getting hit if he’s carrying the football."
To read the whole story from Yahoo!, click here.
Steven also received some recent ink from USA Today and writer Jim Corbett. The USA Today profile featured No. 39’s architectural plans, as well as his plans for the Rams.
"We want to be a winning franchise again," Jackson said. "We all dream of holding up that Lombardi Trophy one day…Coach Spags has brought a new energy and the instant credibility of what he’s done in winning a Super Bowl."
To hold the Lombardi Trophy, Steven’s teammates know they’ll need the S-Jax that ran for 1,528 rushing yards in 2006. Those around the team are impressed with No, 39’s commitment to his body after injury riddled 2007 and 2008 seasons.
"Steven’s been looking phenomenal," safety Oshiomogho Atowgwe said. "The way he’s been working through this camp and all offseason he has his sights on repeating what he did in 2006."
Just three years ago, Jackson bruised defenses for 1,528 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns and led all running backs with 90 receptions for 806 yards and three touchdowns.
"He’s got great hands and is a complete guy," general manager Billy Devaney said. "He’s had two freak (leg) injuries the last two years. Minus that, he’s as good as anybody in the league."
To read the full USA Today feature, click here.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has also reported that S-Jax was the only Rams player to make Sporting News’ annual list of the Top 100 players in the NFL. No. 39 checked in at No. 96.
"Jackson was the eighth-ranked running back on the list, trailing Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (No. 3), San Diego’s LaDainian Tomilinson (No. 5), Philadelphia’s Brian Westbrook (No. 17), Atlanta’s Michael Turner (No. 42), Washington’s Clinton Portis (No. 43), Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (No. 70), and Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker (No. 77)."
AROUND THE COOLER
In preparation for the season, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch conducted a poll of their writers and other media members around the Rams about Steven’s prohibitive status as one of the NFL’s elite backs.
Most of those polled agree that Steven is still in that elite group, but beat writer Jim Thomas had the most resounding answer:
"Without a doubt. Jackson levels the playing field for the Rams. He’s one of only three NFL running backs with at least four straight seasons of 1,000-yard rushing yards entering 2009. (The others: Thomas Jones of the New York Jets and LaDainan Tomlinson of San Diego.) Jackson just needs to stay healthy. In each of the past two seasons, he has missed four games entirely and most of a fifth because of injury."
To read each writer’s thoughts, click here.
THE CRYSTAL BALL
On season’s eve, it’s a time for optimism and for predictions. At Rams Blog Turf Show Times, blogger 3k made his bold picks for No. 39’s 2009 stats.
"Here’s mine: 289 att, 1294 yds, 10 TDs, 61 rec, 428 rec yds, 4 fum."
The Rams and Seahawks do battle Sunday at 3:15 CST from Qwest Field in Seattle. All the action can be seen on FOX. Ron Pitts, John Lynch and Rob Desir will have the call.
Steven Jackson says he’s ready for the regular season (Belleville News-Democrat, August 25, 2009)
Rams put the run to work (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 30, 2009)
Protection for Rams’ Jackson could pay dividends (Pro Football Weekly, August 31, 2009)
Jackson not ready for extinction (Yahoo! Sports, August 24, 2009)
Forgotten Man? Jackson ‘as good as anybody in the league’ (USA Today, August 27, 2009)
Is Jackson among game’s elite RB’s? (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2009)
Official stat predictions: Steven Jackson (Turf Show Times, September 7, 2009)
Jackson is only Ram to make Sporting News Top 100 (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 2009)
St. Louis’ Rams offense is a perfect fit for Steven Jackson (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 2009)