A long offseason has ended and this weekend Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams got back to business.
The Rams opened training camp at Rams Park this weekend and went through their first practice on Sunday in front of nearly 1,600 people, one of the largest training camp crowds ever at Rams Park. With the arrival of new coach Jeff Fisher and a revamped roster, the excitement is palpable in St. Louis.
"I think the community is receiving us very well and you can see the outcome. A lot of fans are out here supporting us, coming to see the new picture, what the new additions look like and so far so good," Steven said. "The fans are excited to have football back. It's been a long time since January."
Steven is excited to have football back too. He spent the offseason completing many offseason endeavors, including two international trips, lots of time with his family and a few charitable endeavors. But football was never too far from his mind and he trained hard almost the whole offseason. By the time the summer months hit, No. 39 found himself chomping at the bit to get back to football.
Thanks to some dietary changes, Steven reported to camp at a slim and fit 234.8 pounds, down nearly 10 pounds from the weight he was listed at last year, with just five percent body fat. SJ said his goal was to get back to the 235-pound weight he played in the season's prior to his back injury.
"It's a lot of hard work. I dieted a lot this offseason and really wanted to focus on getting down," he said. "I made that a priority and I was able to accomplish it."
To reach his goal, Steven worked with the Central Institute for Human Performance in St. Louis on a food sensitivity program that included blood testing and a nearly two-month stretch when he removed foods such as eggs, broccoli, salmon, pork, yeast and many breads from his diet. He said the results were undeniable.
"I took these foods away for six weeks and just really, really slimmed down. My energy feels up, I feel alive," he said. "I've always come in great shape. I take pride in that."
Steven showed off his sleeker frame in practices over the weekend, bursting out for several long runs. SJ said the runs were a product of a few things, dictated by how good he is feeling early in camp.
"This time of year you like to get your conditioning up," he said. "No matter how hard you training in the offseason, it's kind of hard to duplicate or simulate what's going to happen in a game, so I try to get my long bursts in where I can."
Outside of his individual performance, Steven said that practice went well on Day 1 for the Rams and the players had a firm grasp on the concepts they picked up in mini-camp, so Fisher's staff was able to move right along with implementing more elements of the system.
"It felt good to get out here, to get a fresh start with the new regime," he said. "Guys are flying around, a lot of carryover from the spring to camp. The guys have retained a lot of information, so we were able to move at a pretty fast pace."
Just one day into his first training camp, Steven said he can already see why Fisher is one of the most well respected and successful coaches in recent NFL history.
"He does a good job of feeling the chemistry of a team and piecing it together," SJ said. "We've had a few examples already within this first day. He takes control and asks for our input on certain things."
No. 39 also raved about the expertise of the staff that Fisher assembled around him and how the coaching group as a unit is as good as he's ever seen.
"The one thing that stands out for me, having been through this several times is the coaching staff he pieced together," Steven said. "A lot of times it's hard for a coach coming in to get exactly some guys that he wants. A lot of guys he'd choose to have are taken around the league. But it seems that Coach Fisher has put together an absolutely stellar staff."
Still there is plenty of work to be done as the Rams enter their first full week of camp in advance of their preseason opener on August 12 against the Colts. They'll play four preseason games before opening up the regular season against the Lions in Detroit on September 9th. SJ anticipates plenty more progress will be made between now and then, but he likes the direction the Rams are moving in.
"We still have four or five weeks until we play Detroit," he said. "But we're very excited and it's nice seeing the team come together right now."