Jackson gradually working up to game day; Pace to start for Rams

Updated: October 22, 2008, 6:45 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson was hard to spot at practice on Wednesday, bundled in a hooded sweat suit with a towel wrapped around his neck as he watched from the sideline.

It's part of the plan to get him back on the field on game day.

Orlando Pace

Pace

Steven Jackson

Jackson

After some light leg work with weights and spending time in the pool to improve range of motion, Jackson was optimistic he'd be ready for Sunday's game at New England.

"No need to rush," he said. "We have until Sunday to make a game-time decision. But if I could tell anybody, and if my fans are concerned, it's definitely going in the right direction."

The Rams' best blocker will definitely be back. Offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who missed last week's 34-14 upset over the Cowboys with a right quadriceps injury, was a full participant in practice and coach Jim Haslett said the seven-time Pro Bowler would start.

"Everything is good," Pace said. "I went through the whole practice and felt pretty good."

Jackson has been a big part of the Rams' resurgence under Haslett, helping St. Louis win two straight after an 0-4 start. He had 160 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns against the Cowboys and 79 yards the previous week at Washington, and leads St. Louis in rushing (508 yards, 4.2 average) and receiving (25 receptions, 10.4 average).

He was hurt in the fourth quarter against Dallas, right before Haslett was set to take him out. An MRI on Monday revealed a slightly strained quadriceps.

When he hobbled off the field after planting his right leg awkwardly, Jackson and team doctors had been concerned it may be something serious.

"It kind of got bent up pretty funny on the tackle, kind of overstretched itself, and it was definitely something that was a sharp pain right away," Jackson said. "The doctors checked it out and we kind of thought the worst first.

"Once we got a chance to look at the MRI and it confirmed that it wasn't anything, I guess kind of the mind goes to ease."

Jackson said he wouldn't take any unnecessary risks if he didn't continue to improve over the next few days. He wouldn't commit to playing "in a lot of pain" if there was no risk of aggravating the injury.

"Anybody can be tough with somebody else's body," Jackson said. "If it's something I can let rest a week and be able to play the rest of the season without injury, you have to take that into consideration. We're day to day on it."

Jackson's 160-yard effort against the Cowboys was the second-best of his career. The Rams took advantage of the Cowboys' aggressiveness, with Jackson ripping off nice gains on cutback runs.

He said it's important to get some practice time this week because the Patriots have a more sound, stay-at-home defense.

"They stay in their gap responsibilities," Jackson said. "So I definitely want to get a feel for what they're going to do and what they're going to try to take away from us."

If Jackson can't go, Haslett said Antonio Pittman would start after missing three games with a broken bone in his leg. Pittman rushed for 139 yards and a 3.7-yard average in 11 games last season and has one carry for 6 yards this season.

"I'm going to be ready," Pittman said. "That's the man, and there's nothing better than to relieve a guy like that."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press