Despite a back injury that kept him out of last week's game with the Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson believes he has two more games left before his offseason.
The first would be the Rams' season finale against the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome this Sunday. The other, barring a setback with his back, would be the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in Miami on January 31, 2010.
"I want to play in it, but I'm not going to put myself at risk," Steven told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. "It says a lot from my peers, the coaches around the NFL and even the fans. For them to consider me one of the best at the position, it really means a lot to me."
No. 39 told the Post-Dispatch that he was elated to hear the news of his selection to his second Pro-Bowl on Tuesday.
The first order of business was to reward the rest of the offense that helped get him there and S-Jax did so by buying each member of the Rams offense a watch. Steven tweeted a picture of each watch on Tuesday night, which you can see here.
"It's to show my appreciation for all the hard work they put in," he noted.
Steven has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2009, so it's only fitting that he would be selected to his second Pro Bowl. At 1,353 yards rushing, SJ leads the NFC, even after missing Sunday's game in Arizona. His closest pursuer, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, trails SJ by 24 yards for the NFC rushing title entering Week 17.
Peterson was selected by the NFL fans to start the Pro Bowl for the NFC with nearly 1.4 million fan votes. S-Jax had the second most fan votes among NFC running backs with 412,389 and was also selected by fellow players and coaches to play in the NFL's All-Star game.
"I am humbled the fans, coaches, and my fellow players voted me to the Pro Bowl this year," Steven told the Globe-Democrat. "The coaches, offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks, wide receivers and quarterbacks worked hard to have a productive running game this season and this nomination is a testament to that hard work."
No. 39's teammates were happy to help their leader get to the Pro Bowl as well, as center Jason Smith told the Associated Press:
"Everyone knows the tremendous talent Steven has," center Jason Brown said. "The yards he gained even when there was no hole, he definitely adds an element to our offense that cannot be rivaled or challenged."
EASY TO SEE WHY SJ BELONGS
The accolades have been coming ever so slowly for No. 39 this season, but those outside of St. Louis are finally starting to recognize what a special season Action Jackson is having.
There aren't many things to like about a 1-14 team, so sometimes the record makes it harder to notice what one person means.
But there is little doubt that despite the record the Rams hold this season, few players mean more to their team than Steven does to St. Louis. That's why it's the ultimate honor for he and his teammates for S-Jax to make the Pro Bowl, as Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes:
Steven Jackson couldn't be ignored. Not in a season where the Rams have won only once in 15 tries. Not even in a season where they rank 27th in total offense and have scored a league-low 169 points.
If anything, Jackson's body of work in 2009 is more impressive when you consider the offensive ineptitude around him. Pro Bowl voters felt the same way. They gave Jackson his due, selecting him to the NFL's all-star game which is scheduled this season for Jan. 31 in Miami.
The Rams had at least one player go to the Pro Bowl for nine straight seasons before last season, when they sent no one to the All-Star game. S-Jax was also the team's representative in 2006 after the best statistical season of his career to date. That year he rushed for 1,528 yards and led the NFL with 2,334 yards from scrimmage.
Though he isn't likely to top either mark in 2009, the '06 campaign began a remarkable run of consistency, as Thomas notes:
"Since the start of his first Pro Bowl season in 2006, he has averaged a league-high 124.1 yards from scrimmage per game.
"Steven Jackson, man he is really fun to watch," Seattle coach Jim Mora said prior to the Nov. 29 Seahawks-Rams game. "If you are a guy that likes good football players and appreciates guys that work hard and play the game the way it's supposed to be played, then he is a really fun guy to watch. …You see a great competitor in that guy."
S-Jax credits his consistency mostly to the hard work of the offense around him, but also to his own work to learn what he will be facing week-to-week, as he told ESPN:
"Although I have been banged up lately, I was playing at a high level for the first 10 games," said Jackson, who also leads the Rams with 51 receptions. "It wasn't just about hitting the weight room and letting my God-given ability take over, either. I feel like I've seen every scheme a defense can throw at me and I'm relying on what I'm seeing [on film] to make things happen."
Over at Turf Show Times, Kevin broke down the Top 10 draft picks by the Rams this decade.
There was no doubt who would check in at No. 1, it was SJ39 all the way:
No intrigue here. Could number one really go to anyone else? This year alone, Jackson is second in the NFL in rushing 1,353 yards and four touchdowns. Most people know Jackson as a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles runner, and deservedly so. But it's also important to take notice of his speed too. This season, Jackson is third in the league with 10 rushes of 20 yards or more. 2009 will also mark the fifth straight season he's notched over 1,000 yards on the ground.
Only two running backs in franchise history have gained more yards in their first five seasons – Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk. Pretty excellent company if you ask me. With a career rushing mark of 6,644 yards, Jackson only needs 601 more yards to eclipse Eric Dickerson and become the Rams all-time leading rusher. That, combined with his excellent hands and his less-than-stellar offensive line, Steven Jackson is a no-brainer at number one (perhaps top three or four Ram draft pick of all time).
STEVEN IS STAYING
Rumors have circulated throughout the season that the St. Louis may look to trade Steven to continue rebuilding the team.
But the Rams have always countered that they are rebuilding around SJ39 and don't want to do it without him. Why would a team want to trade it's best player and lone source of consistent offense anyway? Last week, Rams GM Bill Devaney tried, once again, to put the continuing murmurs to rest, as told to ESPN:
"It's something that's never even crossed my mind," Rams GM Billy Devaney said. "It's something that I couldn't imagine. We're trying to bring good players into the building. Why would we want (to trade) our best guy – one of the best players in the NFL regardless of position?"
CAN'T HOLD HIM BACK AGAIN
Steven hopes to return to action this week after missing last week's game in Arizona because the herniated disc in his back flared up.
No. 39 said he believed the flight to Arizona was a hindrance in his ability to keep his back loose, as he told the Post-Dispatch:
"The back was just giving me a lot of problems," Jackson said afterward. "It wasn't loosening up. There was pain down my leg. So it was all clear signs telling me that I wasn't ready to go. Signs that I wasn't having in previous weeks.
"That long flight to Arizona probably wasn't in my favor. I really think that's what hurt me. Being home this last week I think is going to do wonders for the back."
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is hopeful that SJ39 can return, but said he would leave that up to the man himself to decide, as quoted by the AP:
"I'll leave that up to Steven," Spagnuolo said Monday. "I trust him. Every day with the injury he has sometimes it changes, but I'm hopeful."
The Rams host their final game of the 2009 season on Sunday when they play the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Kickoff is scheduled for Noon CST and the game can be seen on FOX.
Jackson voted to Pro Bowl (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 29, 2009)
Jackson Pro-Bowl worthy despite Rams' struggles (Yahoo! Sports, December 28, 2009)
The Ten Best Draft Picks of the 2000's (Turf Show Times, December 30, 2009)
At this hour: Jackson staying in St. Louis (ESPN.com, December 25, 2009)
Null and void again (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 28, 2009)
Jackson earns second Pro Bowl invitation but is unlikely to play (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 30, 2009)
Jackson is hoping to play in Pro Bowl next month (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 31, 2009)
Jackson, Rams hops to finish season on a high note (The Sporting News, December 31, 2009)
St. Louis Rams expect Steven Jackson back for finale (ESPN.com, December 29, 2009)
Final Pro Bowl fan balloting: offense (ESPN.com, December 23, 2009)