14

Forgive Rams running back Steven Jackson if there are a swirl of emotions during Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

A win over Minnesota would keep alive the team's chances of making the playoffs, and would put them one victory away from having the first winning record in Jackson's nine seasons with the Rams.

There is also the challenge of competing against the league's leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, who has 1,101 yards in his last seven games and has a goal of topping the NFL's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards held by Rams Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson.

And, there is the added element of it possibly being his last home game in a Rams uniform.

Where to begin?

Asked if he thinks about this being his last home game with the Rams, Jackson said, "Yes and no. It will be something that I look forward to dealing with and handling at the end of the year and I'm very optimistic that I'll finish my career as a Ram. Have I thought about it? Yes, I have. Will the emotion be high? It will be high because Adrian Peterson is on the sideline. ... We both are very accomplished in our own right and I'm sure that we will both raise each other's level of play on Sunday."

Will you look around more than normal before the game?

"No," Jackson said. "I won't. I won't because I expect to be back next year."

Quarterback Sam Bradford can't imagine the Rams without Jackson. When asked about this possibly being his last home game, Bradford told the Post-Dispatch, "Man, I just got goose-bumps when you asked me that. Jack's been probably the most valuable asset that this organization has had since he's been here - at least since I've been here. Jack's a guy that's always done things the right way."

"He's helped me so much in my maturity. Just helped me become a leader. Helped me handle different situations, tough situations. It's really hard for me to imagine this locker room without Jack because he's been such a big part of it for my time here."

Meanwhile, when Jackson was asked about getting excited to play against a back like Peterson, he said, "You do. I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't. He's having an unbelievable year. I'm actually really happy for him, the way he's bounced back. It's very inspirational. To see him play with the passion and the grit and the attitude that I think the game should be played, it's pretty amazing."

Jackson is getting close to reaching 10,000 yards for his career (he needs 71 yards), but it would take a tremendous game to get to 1,000 yards for his eighth consecutive season (he needs 164).

Still, he would love to hit at least one of those milestones at home.

He said, "The last milestone that I was able to hit -- which was breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time Rams record -- we did that on the road in Tampa. I would like to be able to give our fans that. They've been very supportive of me through my career. I have to go out there and do my job, though, and that's to go out there and run hard."

He has always done that, playing through a myriad of injuries, but missing only 11 games.

Bradford is happy Jackson is on his side. He told the Post-Dispatch, "It doesn't say enough about him, just because it's not easy to run the football in this league. When you can do it for eight straight years and get over a thousand yards, No. 1, it means that you're a heck of a runner.

"But No. 2, you've been able to stay healthy. And with the beating that he takes week in and week out, for him to be able to play each week and play at the level that he does, it's incredible because a lot of guys can't do it."

Jackson said, "Nine years ago when I came in here, I was always taught to be consistent and to be dependable. That's what I've tried to be my whole entire career. For me to put myself in this position to be able to hit these milestones, it says that I've done just that.

"I share these accomplishments not only with myself, but the guys that are in the locker room, the guys that I played with in the past. Everyone's contributed to my success."

He is also very aware of the only other NFL players that have managed to reach 1,000 yards at least eight straight times: Emmitt Smith (11), Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin (10), and Thurman Thomas and LaDainian Tomlinson (8). He has a list of those players in his locker.

"That list in the locker is definitely motivation," he said. "Those guys have had individual success and most of them have had team success, and those are the things that I aspire to have."

The team success, of course, has been limited. Only twice in Jackson's tenure, in 2004 and 2010, have the Rams been 8-8, and the team's record entering this season in his eight years was 37-91. It now stands at 43-97-1.

But he has always talked about finishing his career with the Rams, and the restructuring of his contract that allows him to void the final year five days after the Super Bowl occurred before the season when the two sides failed to reach agreement on an extension.

Voiding the contract would allow him to test the free-agent market. Not voiding would leave him under contract for 2013 at $7 million.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has consistently said he hopes to have Jackson back, but at the end of the day, his fate might be decided by negotiators.

Fisher told the Post-Disoatch, "He's been nothing but a professional. I know he's finally having fun. He's expressed that. He's got great leadership qualities, and he loves Sundays. He's got the capability to take over a game - and we like guys that like Sundays.

"I think everybody can see the direction we're headed. Winning takes care of a lot of things. And fortunately, we've got a couple under our belt now, and he's been a big part of it. He's gonna be a big part of how we finish as well."

How they finish could certainly influence the decision Jackson makes. It's also possible an extension could be accomplished between the end of the season and Feb. 8.

The bottom line was expressed by Jackson when he was asked simply if he is happy this season. He said, "I am happy because I have a chance to actually be on a team that posts a winning record."



SHARE: E-mail | Permalink | Comments (0)| RSS comment feed | | |


There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.