Rams' Jackson still ailing, but he doesn't want to end season early

Steven Jackson has played four games without practicing because of a lower back injury. The running back sees no reason to shut things down for the rest of the season, even though his St. Louis Rams are 1-13.

"I feel like I have a long offseason to heal up and recover for next year," Jackson said during a chat on the team's official Web site. "I am just a motivated person, so it doesn't take much. I love to play football. I love to compete."

Jackson had another strong game in Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans, rushing for 82 yards and adding 41 yards on four receptions. The Rams are the NFL's lowest-scoring team with an 11-point average, and the offense really would be in dire straits without Jackson.

So Jackson isn't listening to those who suggest that he watch the Rams' final two games.

"It's been whispered in my ear, and that's from people on my side looking out for best of my future," Jackson told reporters. "But I love to play, and we only have two games to play, so I'm just going to gut it out."

That's music to Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo's ears: "I'm glad he said that."

Medical staff has told Jackson that his back won't heal until the offseason, but he felt well enough to consider practicing last week if he hadn't been sidelined by flulike symptoms. The Rams canceled one practice Thursday after a confirmed case of swine flu to center Jason Brown, and Jackson also was out Friday.

Jackson said receiving some practice repetitions will help improve his timing with rookie quarterback Keith Null, who has started the last two games. The Texans scored their lone touchdown Sunday after a botched handoff led to a Rams lost fumble.

"It's getting to the point where I'm managing to be able to take a few carries in practice," Jackson said. "I really want to do that for me and Keith so we can get on the same page with footwork, getting a feel for one another.

"It's not so much that the back's getting better, it's just a matter of just wanting to get that chemistry."

Null, a sixth-round draft pick, has been thrust into action because of injuries (Marc Bulger) and a combination of injury and illness (Kyle Boller). Jackson's presence gives Null a level of security.

"He plays unbelievable every week," Null said of Jackson. "The guy works his tail off, even when he's hurt. Going out there and having him behind you and protecting you makes you feel a lot more comfortable."

Jackson had his helmet ripped off three times Sunday, the last resulting in a fourth-quarter fracas with the Texans' Bernard Pollard that left the running back with a swollen lip and facial lacerations. Spagnuolo said Jackson emerged from the game with normal soreness.

Spagnuolo hedged on a quarterback for this Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, wanting to see Boller practice Wednesday before making a decision. The coach believed Null improved from his debut one week earlier, when he threw five interceptions against the Tennessee Titans.

The Rams also placed tight end Daniel Fells on injured reserve Monday with a fractured right thigh bone. Cornerback Quincy Butler might miss the final two games because of a left knee sprain and a high ankle sprain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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