Jackson not wild about playing in final game of preseason

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ST. LOUIS -- Nine carries in August is plenty for Steven Jackson, who'd just as soon watch the St. Louis Rams' preseason finale.

The Pro Bowl running back had a one-word response -- "No." -- when asked whether he wanted to play Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Then came the long, rumbling guffaw that has become a Jackson trademark.

"If coach wants me to go out there, I'm fully prepared to go out there and play however long the ones are going to be out there," Jackson added. "But me, personally, no, I don't want to play."

The finale is a lot more important for Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya and Keith Toston, the trio vying to be Jackson's backup. All three are likely to get heavy rotation.

"This game is always about competition," Darby said. "I love competition. It's what makes me great, makes me better as a player, makes me better as a person also."

Jackson understands, though, that a little playing time can aid in developing timing with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. The No. 1 pick will get his second start of the preseason ahead of A.J. Feeley, still recovering from a sprained right thumb, and could be under center for the opener Sept. 12 against Arizona.

"It would definitely be beneficial in letting us grow more chemistry, yes," Jackson said. "But the gentleman asked, 'Do I want to play?' I do think it's probably something what coach will probably want and I'm ready for it if it happens."

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Monday he hadn't finalized the plan for the Ravens game, but anticipated the first-team offense and defense would get some playing time. How much time Jackson gets, if any, hadn't been decided.

"There's a chance he could go out there, but I don't know," Spagnuolo said. "Fifty-fifty on that one."

The Rams would have given Jackson a light workload in the preseason even if he had not been coming off surgery to repair a herniated disk in April. He's totaled 42 yards on those nine carries for a 4.7-yard average, and the Rams have scored touchdowns on both possessions he's played.

Throughout training camp, Jackson has talked about how good he feels heading into the opener at home against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I'm really excited, I'm ready," Jackson said. "As the days go by I'm getting more anxious about it. A few more short weeks and we'll be there."

The offensive output last week at New England was a positive sign for a unit that was the NFL's worst a year ago. Bradford threw two touchdown passes in a 36-35 victory.

"It's definitely a confidence booster," Jackson said. "We know we're capable of putting up points."

Jackson said it's especially impressive considering the youth. Besides Bradford, there are two rookie tight ends, and the offensive line has one rookie and a second-year man.

"It's very encouraging," Jackson said. "We're going in the right direction."

None of the three backup candidates have put up scintillating numbers. Toston, an undrafted rookie, has 80 yards and a 2.8-yard average. Darby, the primary backup last year, has 60 yards and a 2.9-yard average. Ogbonnaya, a sixth-round pick last year, has 39 yards and a 2-yard average.

Toston is the only one who hasn't gotten a chance to go with the first string. He's trying not to worry about upcoming roster cuts.

"It's going out just playing every game like it's my Super Bowl," Toston said. "Because it really is. I'm not promised the next game."

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