It’s been a tough season for Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams, but as a veteran of adversity, don’t expect SJ39 to do anything but fight.
The Rams lost their third straight game and 10th overall on Sunday, falling 26-0 to the division leading San Francisco 49ers. Steven finished with just 10 carries in the game amassing 19 yards against a stingy San Francisco run defense. He also had one catch for 11 yards.
“We knew what we were facing,” Steven said. “We were facing a team that was looking to clinch the NFC West. We knew we would get their best. Hats off to them. I think they played a good football game and our defense in the first half of the game did a really good job of keeping them to nine points when they had some great field position. Overall, they were able to make plays and come up big in defensive situations to get us off the field and eventually they cracked it open.”
The Rams have just four games remaining in the 2011 season as they seek to get back on track and finish strong for both the present and future of the organization. But in addition to the losses in the standings, No. 39 and the Rams have also suffered myriad losses on the field.
After Sunday’s game, the Rams put guard Jacob Bell on injured reserve, making the offensive lineman the 14th player the team has lost for the season. Yet, despite all their losses, No. 39 doesn’t want to see any of his teammates giving up.
“It’s difficult, especially when you see your teammates continue to go down [to injuries]. We work extremely hard and have been working extremely hard all season long. To not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, it’s difficult. But as a leader of the team I just have to continue to chop wood, to show guys how to be professionals. This NFL presents itself in different ways and it’s about how you handle adversity and how you handle success.”
Thursday was a big day in the history of St. Louis sports and its significance was not lost on SJ39.
After 11 seasons as the first baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year contract to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The move left St. Louis fans in a state of shock and Steven, a newly-minted Cardinals fan, was as surprised as anyone.
“I was a little disappointed for Cardinal nation,” SJ said. “He’s been a huge attraction for us for quite some time. He’s the reason why, one of the main reasons why I started following the Cardinals. I was a huge fan and still am a huge fan of his. [It’s] a business decision, I think he made a business decision at the end of the day.”
Steven said on Thursday that the success of Pujols and the Cardinals during his time in St. Louis turned Steven into a baseball fan. Growing up in Las Vegas, SJ didn’t have any pro sports teams to attach to. It wasn’t until he got to St. Louis that he took an interest in them.
“It’s one thing about Las Vegas, you don’t have really any ties to any sports teams, you just watch the winners,” he said. “Since I’ve been here the Cardinals have been some winners, so I’ve jumped on the bandwagon with that.”
Pujols’ departure got SJ39 thinking about his own future and what it means to spend one’s career in one place.
“To finish out with one team is special,” he said. “That’s the franchise that gave birth to a dream and allowed you to live it out and be embraced by the community.”
But Steven also has learned enough about baseball— and its contracts — to know he wouldn’t mind one of his kids taking up the sport.
“I tell my kids, ‘Son anything with a round ball, no oval shaped balls. You can do pretty good in the round ball department. We can check that off, Dad did the football you guys do something else.'”
A HAPPY HOLIDAY FOR KIDS
While Steven always tries to impart wisdom on his own children, he also knows how important it is to use his status to help others.
That’s why he has agreed to once again host St. Louis’ annual Motion for Kids Holiday Party. The event is designed to provide holiday gifts and a party for children whose lives have been adversely affected by a parent in trouble with the legal system. Many of the children the event serves are in foster care or have a parent currently serving time in prison. No. 39 said this time of year only stresses the imprtance of giving back, which he consders a year-round responsibility.
“What motivates me is I remember being a kid and dreaming…to have a dream come true and see that if you really pursue it, and you have the support of loved ones, that anything is possible,” Jackson said on his involvement with Motion for Kids. “I was fortunate enough to have those loved ones, but some people don’t. I want to make sure that if they don’t have that in their immediate family that they can know that someone’s out there thinking about them and encouraging them to reach for the stars.”
The Rams have been active with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, the organization which puts on the event, for a number of years. Molly Higgins, vice president of corporate communications/civic affairs for the Rams, said that Steven seemed like a natural choice to head up the event for the organization.
“Last year, we presented Steven with the opportunity to chair the event and he jumped at the chance to make the holidays special for these kids,” Higgins said. “He really took the event to the next level in terms of player support and recruited many of his teammates to join him in putting smiles on the faces of these children. We’re so fortunate to have a player of Steven’s caliber on the field, but just as important is his leadership in the locker room and his ability to make a tremendous impact off the field. He’s someone who embraces the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, especially kids.”
This year the holiday party will be housed at the Edward Jones Dome and is expected to cater to at least 3,000 kids.
A lot has changed over the last month for Steven and the Rams.
Just three weeks ago, Steven was coming off one of the best three-game stretches of his career and the things were looking up for the Rams, who had won two of three. Over those three games, No. 39 had rushed for 417 yards on 81 carries, an average of more than five yards per rush. In addition he had eight catches for 67 yards.
But in the three games since, No. 39 has just 42 carries for 125 yards and seven catches for 44 yards as the Rams have lost three straight games. But coach Steve Spagnuolo admits SJ39 isn’t to blame for the lack of success on the ground over the last few weeks.
“The run game is a lot of people,” Spagnuolo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s ten minus the quarterback because all he does is hand it off. It’s the running back and the guys blocking for him, so people have to do a little bit better of a job blocking. I’m sure Steven, being the prideful guy he is, probably says that he needs to do a couple of things better and piece it together and we get a little bit more effective.”
The 49ers were particularly well prepared for the Rams rushing attack and held S-Jax to his lowest per carry rushing average in six years. No. 39 said the lack of success on the ground totally threw the Rams off their game plan on Sunday.
“The plan was to be a balanced offense, to pound them out and set the tempo,” he said. “To make sure we had favorable third downs and continued to move the ball and keep them honest in their attack.”
Coach Spagnuolo echoed those sentiments.
“When you have a day like that offensively it’s tough to get it anywhere,” Spagnuolo said. “I mean, the intent was to try get him the ball. We had given him the ball, it just wasn’t going. They played pretty good run defense, so it forces you in another direction. We only had 40-some odd plays on offense, and that’s how it ended up.”
But Steven believes the Rams still have it in them to get back to where they were three weeks ago, have success on the ground, build a balanced offense and win football games.
It all starts, he says, with focusing in on a singular mindset to achieve that goal.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he told Missouri Sports Mag, “but I think it’s just getting me in a groove. Getting me back in my groove that we were at about a month ago and continue to just get guys to focus in and hone in on different assignments.
“It’s hard to catch your rhythm when guys are constantly rotating in and out of the lineup. If we could just get our core guys together for this last month of football and get into a rhythm, I think we’ll be able to put up a pretty good fight against these next four opponents.”
That foursome starts with the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night inside Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST and the game can be seen on ESPN.
- Rams fall to 49ers (StLouisRams.com, December 4, 2011)
- Rams are left with an empty feeling (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 5, 2011)
- RB Steven Jackson Postgame Press Conference (StLouisRams.com, December 4, 2011)
- Rams Recognized with Spirit of Justice Award (StLouisRams.com, December 7, 2011)
- Rams offensive line takes another hit (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 6, 2011)
- Jackson: “To Finish Out with One Team is Special” (Missouri Sports Mag, December 9, 2011)
- Jackson Ponders Staying in One Spot (StLouisRams.com, December 9, 2011)