Jackson sees new season, new coach as opportunity

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS – Steven Jackson has been asking for the ball for a while now, and it appears the St. Louis Rams are going to grant his wish.

Entering his third season, playing for a new coach and completely out of Marshall Faulk’s shadow, Jackson views this season as an opportunity and not some sort of make-or-break proposition.

He’s not concerned about heightened expectations heading into the season opener.

“There’s no pressure,” Jackson said Thursday. “We’re making a big deal out of nothing. I was a 1,000-yard back, I’m going to continue to be a 1,000-yard back.”

New coach Scott Linehan, the offensive coordinator with the Dolphins last year after three seasons in the same role with the Vikings, promises to have a more balanced attack than pass-happy predecessor Mike Martz. Jackson sees himself as an important cog, but a player who can’t do it all alone.

Last season, the Rams’ first-round pick in 2004 achieved his first 1,000-yard season.

Jackson was seventh in the NFC with 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, and is coming off light duty in preseason, when he rushed for 73 yards on 19 carries.

“I’m not a guy that can make 11 guys miss,” Jackson said. “There’s only one back that did that and that’s Barry Sanders.

“That’s not what I do, what I do is I control the ballgame and I move the chains.”

Jackson broke in behind Faulk and now he’s got another player who’s put up big numbers to lean on a bit. The Rams signed Stephen Davis late last month to be the backup running back.

Davis is a power back like Jackson and likely will see some action on Sunday, although he’s playing catchup with his conditioning.

“He’s missed training camp but he’s an experienced veteran and he’s working his way into it,” Linehan said. “We’ll be patient with that, but we’ve got to accelerate as fast as we can.”

“I think he’s still got some miles left in the old car there.”

Jackson views Davis, who had 549 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games last year with the Panthers, as a guy who’ll provide veteran leadership on offense.

Knee surgery sidelined him for all but two games in 2004 and the start of 2005, but Davis has four 1,000-yard seasons.

“You guys don’t let me slack up, so I don’t need a Stephen Davis to push me,” Jackson said in chiding reporters.

“As a rookie I came in backing up a great guy, and I don’t think him being picked up is going to force me to do anything I haven’t been doing already,” he said.

Jackson reiterated that he feels rather secure.

One piece of evidence is he has inherited the recliner that used to sit in front of Faulk’s locker stall.

Just a few veteran Rams have recliners, and the most have wooden stools.

“There’s no pressure, I don’t feel any pressure,” Jackson said. “I’m enjoying the relaxation of it around the park.”