Despite sprain, Jackson ready for duty

Friday, December 10, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Coming off his first career 100-yard game, Steven Jackson won't let a sprained right knee stop him. Marshall Faulk's understudy expects to shake off the injury and start again Sunday for the St. Louis Rams.

"It's a little tight, but it should be all right for this weekend," Jackson said. "I know me and Marshall, we're working on getting back to playing."

Jackson spent several hours Monday and Tuesday, off days for the team, at Rams Park taking treatment for the injury that occurred near the end of last week's 16-6 victory over the 49ers. Jackson brought up the injury himself during a postgame news conference, and coach Mike Martz had appeared frustrated about the rookie's initial attitude.

"I don't know if he'll be available or not this week," Martz said Monday. "I suppose he would be. Who knows? I think he'll probably be all right. You never know, you just never know."

On Wednesday, Martz said Jackson might not practice until Friday and that he'd prepare third-stringer Arlen Harris for potential starting duty against the Panthers (5-7). Faulk is expected to dress again but might need another week to recover from a bruised left knee.

"Obviously, it's hard to start him if he doesn't practice," Martz said of Jackson "You have to assume you're not going to have him and get Arlen ready; and if you have him, you have him."

Jackson is getting the message.

"I know we've got things going in the right direction, and I had a pretty good game on the ground," Jackson said. "We're going to need a physical kind of running this weekend because they're a physical defense."

The Rams took another just-in-case step on Wednesday, signing kick returner Aveion Cason. Harris has been the Rams' kickoff returner but would relinquish those duties to Cason, in his second stint with the Rams after playing for them briefly in 2001.

Jackson had 119 yards on 26 carries Sunday, helping the Rams win with ball control after quarterback Marc Bulger sprained his right shoulder on a sack late in the first quarter.

The Panthers have been impressed with Jackson's combination of speed and power.

"He's a big guy with good vision," Carolina coach John Fox said. "He's a guy we were very, very high on in the draft, and we think the Rams got a good one."

Jackson was happy with his first extended action. On the year he has 496 yards rushing on 100 carries, nearly a 5-yard average, with two touchdowns.

"We did a good job of mixing up the run and the pass," Jackson said. "I believe I did a great job of not only running the ball but doing a good job in pass protection."

Jackson said he was hurt sometime during the Rams' final possession, and Harris ended up getting his first carry of the season, a 2-yard gain, on their last offensive snap. Jackson said it didn't help that he was playing on artificial turf.

"That surface is unforgiving," he said. "You're basically taking two hits on the play _ not only are you getting hit by a defender, you're taking quite a blow hitting that turf."

The Rams have a much more forgiving Fieldturf field composed of rubber shavings at their practice facility and may switch to that surface at the Edward Jones Dome, too.

"That's the new thing everyone's moving to," Jackson said. "I would like it, and I think a lot of guys around here would, too."

Bulger could miss two more weeks, putting the offense in the hands of 39-year-old Chris Chandler. Bulger anticipates that he'll resume throwing early next week, but said the more realistic projection is to be ready for the Eagles game Dec. 27.

"In the best case we hope I can be back for next week, but you hate to guess right now," Bulger said. "We'll know after I finally throw whether it's going to flare back up."

The Rams signed Jamie Martin on Monday and intend for him to be the backup ahead of rookie Jeff Smoker as soon as he's back to speed on the offense. Martin, 34, previously played for the Rams from 1993 to 1996 and 2001 and 2002.

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