Jackson Focused on Strong Second Half

Posted Nov 2, 2012

To the surprise of almost nobody, the NFL trade deadline came and went on Thursday afternoon without any sort of major deals by any teams in the league.

Included in those not on the move was perhaps the player who had the most rumors surrounding him, Rams running back Steven Jackson.

The subject of constant speculation, even in the 48 hours after coach Jeff Fisher did his best to squash it; Jackson never let the gossip and innuendo bother him.

“I was very aware of trade speculation and what was going on,” Jackson said. “But one thing about me, and even going back to my holdout, I understand that this is a business and that if a particular team has options or are taking phone calls, doesn’t mean they want to get rid of me. It’s just the interest of other teams and seeing what may happen or may transpire with my contract, especially, it may be in there at the end of the season. I’m not offended by it, nor am I going to be distracted by it. I’m ready to go into this bye week, get away for the weekend, but come back ready to finish strong these next eight games.”

Indeed, Jackson became the focus of many of the rumors the moment the news broke about his reconfigured contract in the hours before the Thursday night contest against Arizona. With the prospect of his potential free agency after the season looming, talking heads made the assumption that he was available via trade to teams they deemed stronger contender than the Rams.

As with any player in the league, teams made calls, the Rams accepted calls and discussions were had but nothing substantive took place and Fisher made his statement a full two days before the trade deadline came.

For his part, Jackson did his best to stay out of the fray.

“I try my best to stay out of that,” Jackson said. “I allow my agent (to handle it). I trust his wisdom and knowledge on what’s going on in the business world and when he tells me what I need to do, he gives me my advice, I weigh it, and I go from there. But, at no point I really felt that it may happen.”

Part of Jackson’s confidence that he would get to finish his ninth season as a Ram came from the strong relationship he’s already formed with Fisher and general manager Les Snead.

In the weeks leading up to the deadline and following the news breaking about his contract, Jackson said he was kept in the loop on a consistent basis by the Rams decision makers.

“Personally and as a professional, they’ve been very transparent with me,” Jackson said. “They’ve always been open with me about my role, what they want and expect from me, and it hasn’t changed. So, although things have changed a lot around here, they’ve given me the respect of being very transparent with me.”

Part of that transparency has been Jackson’s ever evolving role in the offense. While Jackson has maintained his starting role and continues to get the majority of the touches, rookie back Daryl Richardson has gotten more and more involved with each passing week.

Through the first half of the season, Jackson had 108 carries for 403 yards with a touchdown and the Rams seem to have found something in the combination of Jackson’s power and Richardson’s electric speed.

Although it’s been a change for Jackson, he’s embraced having a complement around capable of extending his career.

“It’s a huge adjustment, but I think the more you embrace change, it makes things for transition work a little easier,” Jackson said. “That’s why I try to do my best, is just be a veteran that I know I can be. Go out there, take advantage of the opportunity that is given to me, run hard, and show the young guys behind me how to be a professional on and off the field.”

With the final eight games of the season secure with the only team he’s ever known, Jackson is solely focused on doing all that he can to help the team win and reach the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season of 2004.

Jackson says he would like to finish a season with a winning record, something he’s not yet been able to do in his time in St. Louis.

While his contract not allows him to void the final season of his contract after the season, Jackson also said he is open to finding a different contract resolution before the season ends but that it’s not going to get in the way of his focus anymore than the recent trade rumors did, which is to say not at all.

“I’m not quite sure on that,” Jackson said. “Definitely hope that we finish the season strong. Communication between my agent and the front office will happen at some point, probably more toward the end of the season. But right now, like I said, I’m completely focused on the San Francisco 49ers and the next eight games going forward. As long as I can continue to play good football, I think the organization will want to keep me around.”

Already the holder of nearly every major rushing record in franchise history and within striking distance of a number of others, Jackson has achieved nearly all there is to achieve on an individual basis.

But that isn’t what drives him to continue to produce as a Ram. He believes he has plenty of unfinished business in terms of the team and the organization that he’d still like to accomplish.
“Absolutely,” Jackson said. “I’ve achieved a lot of things individually, but none of that is why I play the game or what I have in store for my career. I want to be a part of a winning organization. I want to have multiple playoff games under my belt and, hopefully, a championship or two.”