Jackson eager for more carries this week against Minnesota

Friday, December 9, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- Steven Jackson got only 11 carries last week for the St. Louis Rams, even with a rookie quarterback getting his first start, and the frustration is showing.

Jackson emphasized Thursday he's just in his second year and the team comes first, and that he hadn't made his feelings known to the coaching staff. But he dropped his guard a bit with reporters, saying they could be his advocates.

"No, I haven't," he said. "But you can: Give me the ball."

Much of the season and in two of the last three weeks in particular, Jackson has been underutilized. Two weeks ago in a loss to the Cardinals he had 12 carries for 6 yards, and in the loss to the Redskins that likely knocked the Rams (5-7) from playoff contention, he totaled 24 yards.

In that game, the Rams called nearly four times as many pass plays as running plays. Rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick, filling in after injuries to Marc Bulger and Jamie Martin, threw 36 passes, scrambled five times and was sacked three times.

The only other running play was a 3-yard gain by Marshall Faulk.

The Redskins crowded the line to force Fitzpatrick, a seventh-round pick out of Harvard, to win the game. Jackson expects more of the same on Sunday at Minnesota.

"Why not make Fitzpatrick win the game?" Jackson said. "I feel, and I think they know, that if left to me I'm going to do my part and I'm going to help us win.

"I would gear up, put eight or nine guys in the box to stop the run, and make the young guy [do it]."

If that happens, Jackson expects tough sledding. Last week, he said running lanes were hard to find.

"Sometimes there was, sometimes there wasn't," he said. "It's not all on the offensive line, and I know they're taking a lot of heat right now.

"Defensive coordinators these past few weeks have been scheming against us pretty well."

Interim coach Joe Vitt has been saying all week that the Rams have to balance the attack to have a shot at success.

But Jackson, who has gotten fewer than 20 carries in nine of the first 12 games, is to the point where he'll believe it when he gets the ball in his hands.

"Week in, week out, you hear it and I hear it," he told reporters. "So we'll see what happens come Sunday."

In Jackson's three 20-plus carry games, he's rushed for 97, 179 and 110 yards.

"I feel like I can make my team win, but I'm not worried about it," he said. "When my number is called I'll be there, I won't shy away from it."

Despite the lack of work, Jackson is sixth in the NFC with 869 yards, a 4.3-yard average and seven touchdowns. He's easily topped his rookie-year total of 673 yards when he was splitting time more with Faulk after the Rams took him in the first round out of Oregon State.

"There's not too much around here you can say or do, you just go out and be a professional about it," Jackson said. "My time will come eventually, it's only my second year in the league and a lot of people tend to forget that."

Jackson skipped one day of practice earlier this week with a sore ankle, but said it's not a problem.

"The body is sore, it's late in the season, so I was able to rest up a little bit," he said. "Over the course of the year your body just takes a toll and coach rewarded me with some time off."

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