Rams set to test new turf in exhibition

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jackson suffered a knee injury last year on the old surface at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- After getting his right knee beat up on the St. Louis Rams' old artificial turf field as a rookie, running back Steven Jackson pines for the real thing when he hits the field.

A state of the industry Fieldturf surface, one that mimics the give of grass with rubber tire shavings as cushioning, was installed at the Edward Jones Dome last month. The Rams will practice on the new field the next two days, breaking it in for Friday night's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, and everybody on the team is happy that the wear and tear will be greatly reduced in an already punishing sport.

Jackson sustained a partially torn ligament and bruise last year, injuries that limited him to 673 yards rushing after the Rams took him in the first round of the draft.

He's not as happy as might be expected about the new stuff, leveraged by the team citing its lease with the city, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission that requires the stadium to be in top eight in the NFL.

"It's a lot softer than what we had in the past. Still, it's turf," Jackson said. "You can never replace nature. As smart as we think we are, something like grass just feels much better."

Jackson is relieved, though, to see the decade-old, carpet on concrete turf go.

"It was Astroturf, and no one likes to play on it -- the visiting team or the home team," Jackson said. "So I'm pretty glad they did away with it."

The Rams are working out at their year-round facility this year, practicing on three grass fields in the mornings and then going to their indoor Fieldturf field in the afternoons, factors that have allowed Jackson to practice without problems through almost two weeks of training camp. Jackson and fellow running back Marshall Faulk also have often worn yellow "do not touch" jerseys in camp.

"The knee's feeling great," Jackson said. "Two weeks banging on it, it's pretty good."

Jackson was named the starter ahead of Faulk in the offseason. Neither he nor Faulk likely will see much action in the preseason.

"Whatever it takes for coach to feel he's comfortable with me, but I don't intend on playing all four quarters," Jackson said. "I know how to carry myself, and I know how to prepare myself for the season."

It might take Jackson a while to distance himself from the former two-time MVP, though.

"There's nothing you can say wrong about him or say bad about him," Jackson said. "It's something I understand I'm going to have to deal with through my career; and hopefully, I can get through it and move on with mine. Start my own legacy."

The Rams will bus back and forth to the dome for the afternoon practice on today and Thursday.

"You don't want to go through all of that, but the surface needs to be run on before we actually play on it," Martz said. "That's the whole reason to go down there, for the surface."

As in previous seasons, Martz would not discuss how he'd use his starters in Friday's preseason opener.

"Sometimes when you say those things and it changes, then it just causes issues," Martz said. "So I will not discuss any of that throughout the preseason. So, please don't ask."

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