No practice allowing Rams RB Jackson to be ready on Sundays

ST. LOUIS -- Steven Jackson missed his eighth consecutive practice Thursday, resting an aching back. But on game day, he'll again carry a heavy load for the Rams' feeble offense.

Apparently, practice is overrated for the 235-pound running back, who's the lone threat on one of the worst offenses in franchise history. Jackson's seven 100-yard games this season, including five of the last six, is a career best, and he has done it for an offense that has scored 13 touchdowns.

League leaders

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Sunday's game between the Titans and Rams will feature the league leaders in yards from scrimmage in Tennessee's Chris Johnson and St. Louis' Steven Jackson. Both are threatening to eclipse 2,000 total yards.

Chris Johnson
Carries: 244

Rushing Yards: 1,509

Receptions: 39

Receiving Yards: 322

Total TDs: 10

Steven Jackson
Carries: 266

Rushing Yards: 1,232

Receptions: 44

Receiving Yards: 267

Total TDs: 4

"First things first is making sure I'm ready to go on Sunday," Jackson said. "Making sure my back is getting to the point where I can take the carries, take the pounding, that's what's more important."

If the Rams played Thursday night instead of Sunday at Tennessee, Jackson said he would have had to miss the game.

"I'm just being honest with you, because of the pounding I take on Sunday," Jackson said. "I need the entire week to get ready to do it again."

Jackson participated in a walkthrough early in practice Thursday and rode a stationary bicycle. He has been working with the strength and conditioning coach to keep his fitness level high. He prepares for blitz protection and route-running by watching more film than before, although he believes run reads aren't a problem given the work he put in earlier in the season.

It's a maintenance routine that the Rams (1-11) might be forced to use the rest of the season.

"Long periods of standing and doing stuff with his back, we're just still being careful," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "The idea is to get him to the game on Sunday."

Jackson has been productive in two outings since hurting the back, if a bit stiff. Last week, he had 112 yards on 28 carries in a loss at Chicago, and the week before that, he had 89 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries in a home loss to Seattle.

Jackson said he felt more himself last week.

"When I watch the film, I kind of still feel like I wasn't getting under my pads like I'd like to, so I can tell that I'm bothered by it," he said. "But it didn't hurt as much."

This week, there's plenty of motivation, given the game features the NFL's top two rushers. The Titans' Chris Johnson has 1,396 yards and Jackson 1,120 yards, and they also are 1-2 in yards from scrimmage.

"Chris is having an unbelievable year -- he's having a year I can only dream to have one day," Jackson said. "I'm a big fan of his because not only is he a speedy guy but he's willing to take a pounding."

Jackson said he and Johnson have mutual friends and had planned on working out together last offseason, although the plans never worked out.

"Him being in Florida and me being out West, we just couldn't really match any dates up to be able to train together," Jackson said. "I think highly of his game."

Rams quarterback Kyle Boller (sore thigh) was limited for the second consecutive day, along with fullback Mike Karney (neck). Rookie Keith Null, a sixth-round pick who has yet to play, took a lot of snaps with the first-team offense.

Spagnuolo said Boller had to back off after taking close to a full load Wednesday while still fighting soreness from the Bears loss.

Rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith (concussion) watched only a small portion of practice. Spagnuolo said Smith seems to have problems when he moves around, but the coach said there has been no discussion about possibly shutting down the No. 2 overall draft pick for the rest of the season.

"We're trying to get him through a few days where he doesn't have any symptoms," Spagnuolo said. "We're trying to get him back."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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