Jackson reports to Rams' training camp in modest fashion
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
MACOMB, Ill. -- St. Louis Rams first-round pick Steven Jackson, criticized by his coach earlier this month after missing a rookie minicamp, signaled Tuesday that it's time to go to work.
Jackson, a running back who signed a five-year, $7 million contract on Sunday, arrived in training camp on the rookie bus, and 2 1/2 hours ahead of the 5 p.m. report deadline. In the past, high picks have often showed up at camp in style in shiny new vehicles and a lot closer to the deadline.
"I'm a rookie," Jackson said with a laugh. "When I told my agent I was going to ride the bus he had the same response. He was 'You're going to ride the bus?' But I just wanted to get up there."
That was a good sign for Rams coach Mike Martz, who reiterated that jobs must be won regardless of draft position when two-a-day workouts begin Wednesday. Jackson begins training camp fourth on the depth chart at tailback behind Faulk, Lamar Gordon and even Arlen Harris, who's being converted to fullback.
"Steven's like every other rookie," Martz said. "Whatever you get, you earn. That's what this league is all about, and there was a misconception that he was going to come in and play right away because he's Steven Jackson."
Jackson is considered the heir apparent to Faulk, 31 and entering his 12th NFL season. Faulk, like veteran safety Aeneas Williams, will participate in only the afternoon practice of two-a-days, giving Jackson plenty of opportunities to carry the ball in training camp.
"This is a very competitive league, and he needs to come in and compete," Martz said. "My message to Steven was exactly that.
"I suspect that he'll do that but we just wanted to make sure that was clear to everybody, not just Steven."
Jackson also had a selfish reason for taking the rookie bus: He didn't want to risk getting lost on the winding three-plus hour drive, often on two-lane roads, to training camp.
"I've caused enough trouble over the last week," Jackson said. "That would be a little more news for you guys. So I figured I'd hop on the bus and it would be easier for me."
Jackson didn't appear overly concerned about Martz's criticism. He wasn't at the camp because he had not signed a contract.
"Coaches want to set the tone," he said. "I think he was trying to play a little mind game with me. I understand where he was coming from, but hopefully he understood where I was coming from."
Jackson hoped that riding the bus would help mend fences.
"We'll see what the marriage looks like," he said.
"When Big O gets here, we'll love him to death," Martz said. "It's hard for coaches but it's what it is, we're not going to change it and why worry about it.
"When he gets here we'll embrace him, and line him up and let's go."
"I think it's just fair to Leonard," Martz said. "Otherwise he'll just get hounded on some things. We just want to make sure everybody understands the guidelines, that everything is pertinent to football."