Steven Jackson is preparing this preseason to enter ninth NFL season, making him easily the longest tenured member of the St. Louis Rams. With tenure comes responsibility and the leadership role that he has earned over his first eight seasons is not something SJ39 takes lightly.
He knows what's expected of him and appreciates the fact that younger players on the team — of which there are many — look toward him. While he leads with his words from time-to-time, it's often the standard Steven sets that speak volumes.
"I just have to lead by example, starting with work ethic week-in and week-out," he said after Thursday's practice.
One such instance happened a few days earlier when the Rams returned to practice on Tuesday following their 38-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in their exhibition opener. Nick Wagoner of Rams.com detailed in his Tuesday practice report how SJ stepped up to join a teammate who had been assigned some extra sprint work at the end of practice:
"We already know that RB Steven Jackson is a tremendous leader revered by his teammates but here's another example of what makes him so great. At the end of practice, the Rams did some sprints for conditioning drills. One Ram was singled out to run a sprint by himself for an unknown miscue. Jackson didn't let his teammate run alone, completing the run in lockstep with his teammate. Jackson probably didn't have to do any sprints if he didn't want to but there he was doing extra to support a young teammate."
It was a prime example of how seriously No. 39 takes his role on the team. Other examples can be seen daily.
When he's not focused on his own reps at practice, Steven watches intently as younger running backs like rookies Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson go to work. SJ notes that part of his role as a leader and veteran is to be a sounding board for those players.
"I'm very honed in on what's going on with the young guys," he said. "Believe it or not, after every series, they ask me what I think, so I have to pay attention."
But Steven said that watching the backs and instructing them is useful to him too. He believes that pointing out certain techniques or flaws in his pupils helps him to focus on making those areas more consistent in his own approach as well.
"It actually brings attention to detail for myself to make sure I'm working on the same things and I'm leading, not just preaching," he said. "I'm actually doing these things, so not only are [the young guys] working on it themselves, they see me doing it routinely."
After another full week of practice, the Rams get another shot at game action on Saturday night as they host the Kansas City Chiefs in the Governor's Cup game at Edward Jones Dome.
Steven played just two series in last week's game against the Colts and expects to get a little more run in game two on Saturday, hopefully even a chance to find paydirt.
"I expect to be out there a little more than we were in Game 1," he said. "I'm pretty sure coach will keep us out there a little longer to make sure we get into the groove of things. Hopefully we get into the red zone and we'll be able to work on some red zone package. You can always score on one play. But maybe we'll score on two plays."
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said this week that he will be keeping the game plan very simple again in Saturday's game against the Chiefs, as the Rams roll out a new offense under coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. But Steven expects the team to be much improved from week one to week two and doesn't believe that the simplistic plan will have an impact on the Rams' preparation for the season.
"We've been 4-0 in the preseason before and I think we all know how that worked out," he said. "Initially we just need to work on guys' techniques, making sure we all know the scheme and we're meshing together. Coach called it vanilla but I think we got some good looks. We didn't game plan the Indianapolis Colts. They came out playing well and made some great plays. But as far as what we need to learn on film, we got that and I think we're going to improve this week."
Saturday's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT and can be seen live locally on KTVI FOX 2. It will replay nationally on Monday at Noon CDT on NFL Network.