Monday, June 23, 2008

Rams' Jackson speaks nothing but the truth

Everything about Steven Jackson is outsized. He laughs big, he runs big, and
oh, my goodness, he talks big.

When the Rams' all-pro running back talks, the truth tends to come out of his
mouth in all of its unfiltered, sometimes uncomfortable glory. I happen to like
that about him, for what his unsettling words usually lack in diplomacy, they
more than make up for with disturbing spot-on honesty.

Since arriving in town four years ago, the man with the flowing dreadlocks has
readily spoken his mind about his playing time, his uneasy coexistence with
Marshall Faulk, his public image, his desire for greatness and his
underachieving teammates. Much to the mortification of the team's always
anxious public relations staff, Jackson has even dared to tread on the
ultra-sensitive subject of the fickle St. Louis fan base.

So how coincidental was it that in the same week the Rams broke out their new,
edgy "Bring It!" ticket sales ad campaign

featuring Jackson stomping through a full page in your sports section, the
outspoken runner was mounting an even more edgy campaign of his own to rouse
Rams fans out of their '07 malaise.

In an interview with Michael Silver of, "The Train" brought it hard,
chiding Rams fans for selling their tickets to Packers and Steelers fans last
season. ("It was like playing road games," he said. "We ran out of the tunnel
and got booed. It was ridiculous. I was livid.") If you want to characterize
that as controversial, feel free. The truth is, what he told Silver is nothing
we haven't already heard here in St. Louis.

After the Packers game last December, a seething Jackson sat in front of his
locker stall at the Edward Jones Dome and ripped into the fans. "It's a joke,
as simple as that," Jackson said, the words spitting out of his mouth in
disgusted staccato bursts. When someone asked Jackson if at times it felt like
he was at Lambeau Field, the disgruntled tailback barely let the reporter
finish the question. "We were at Lambeau Field," he snapped. "The whole first
level was Green Bay Packer fans. And then we're allowing them to put up signs."

So tell me once again, what did Jackson say that wasn't right on the money
about the state of pro football in St. Louis?

Later in the article, Jackson basically said there are plenty of
reasons why the 2008 season should be worth the price of admission. He said
because he's in a contract year, he has to produce. He said because the team is
coming off a disastrous 3-13 season, coach Scott Linehan has to produce. He
said because the team's ownership future is unclear, even the franchise's
future in St. Louis is unclear. All of those factors are reasons why the Rams
should be plenty motivated to go from worst to first.

Again, Jackson spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

If you think this is a fool who pops off on ill-advised, selfish rants like
T.O., you don't know Jackson. He's an intelligent man who knows the weight of
every one of his potent words. When you hear him ripping on fans, it's a rant
with a purpose. It's his way of letting them know that they have to play a part
in this Rams revival, too. The Dome has to return to those Sundays when it was
one of the most imposing home-field advantages in the NFL.

When he stomped off the field during games last year and screamed at teammates
and coaches, that was purposeful, too. Too many dumb play calls and
undisciplined penalties. If he's one of the main cogs on this team, it's his
job to open his mouth and get on underachieving teammates. That's what team
leaders are supposed to do.

If you think it was a careless error for him to criticize his wide receivers
for not blocking for him in the interview, you're missing the point.
I think it was a well-thought-out surgical strike and a loaded message aimed
directly at some veterans who had off years last season and are being expected
to be more ferocious downfield blockers in Al Saunders' new system.

Since the '07 season ended, Linehan has repeatedly said that he expects his
veterans to be more vocal and exert more leadership than any of them displayed
during the train wreck of last season. By simply telling the truth — no matter
how uneasy that truth might be — Jackson is doing just that.

I keep reading that interview and I can't find anything that Jackson said that
wasn't true. So how can the truth be a problem?

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