The term getting in shape takes on a much different meaning for Rams running back
For the normal person that might mean improving their diet and exercising on a regular basis. For Jackson, it means taking a body that is already fine tuned to another, as yet undiscovered level.
When Jackson departed from the Rams offseason program in June to begin his rigorous, personalized offseason program, he went in search of a way to take his sculpted, 240-plus pound frame and return it to the same condition it had been before his back surgery two years ago.
That required an even more advanced and difficult training regiment and some good old fashioned science for his diet.
“It was a lot of hard work, to be honest with you,” Jackson said. “A lot of hard work. I got at it real good this offseason, and I’m just really focused on wanting to get back down to the playing weight that I played at before my back injury. I made that a priority and I was able to accomplish it.”
Upon arrival at ContinuityX Training Center for the team’s first practice on Sunday, Jackson had accomplished his goal and then some. He had trimmed down from about 245 pounds and sent out a tweet from his Twitter account (@sj39) that consisted of the following message:
“234.8 LBS and 5.1% body fat. I'm ready, let the games begin.”
In other words, Jackson had cut about 10 pounds from where he was last season and was even leaner than ever.
To get there, Jackson spent part of his summer vacation right here in St. Louis at the Central Institute for Human Performance. There, Jackson took part in an eight-week program that helped him evaluate how his body digests and reacts to different foods.
The program called for Jackson to remove some of his favorite foods from his diet, even the healthy ones such as broccoli, and tested his reaction to the fasting.
“I put away a lot of things,” Jackson said. “Some broccoli, a lot of bread, salmon. They did a blood test and found out what foods my body reacts to in a way, so I just did away with those foods for about eight weeks, and it worked pretty good for me.”
Pretty good is probably a major understatement considering that Jackson was already one of the best conditioned athletes in the league. But the proof has again been in the pudding in the opening week of this year’s training camp.
Jackson just turned 29, which in running back years is considered an elder statesman but you wouldn’t be able to tell it from the way he’s practiced in the opening days of camp.
The slimmer, leaner Jackson has been practicing with the enthusiasm and vigor of a rookie, finishing runs all the way through to the end zone and bursting through seams that look impossible to penetrate.
On the first day of practice alone, Jackson drew loud cheers from the large crowd of Rams fans for his running and turned the heads of his teammates, quarterback
“Absolutely, I think Steven looked great today,” Bradford said. “I think you guys could tell he had some energy. I think he scored every time he touched the football; he finished in the end zone. It’s just great to have him out here playing at that level. I think it’s great, too, for the young guys to see that and to see how someone who has had as much success as Steven has had practice.”
Jackson made it clear he wasn’t just showboating for the fans. As the longest tenured Ram on the roster by a comfortable margin, the Rams’ all time leading rusher said he is constantly looking for ways to keep his body conditioned to stand up to the requirements of a NFL training camp and season.
“This time of year, it’s good to mix your conditioning up,” Jackson said. “No matter how hard you train in the offseason, it’s kind of hard to duplicate or simulate what’s going to happen in a game, so I try to get my long burst in when I can.”
Already the owner of nearly every major rushing record in franchise history, Jackson can take aim this season at a number of impressive marks that would stand up against what some of the greatest running backs in league history have accomplished.
With 9,093 career rushing yards to his name, Jackson needs just 907 to become the 27th player in league history to hit the 10,000-yard mark and just the 13th player to reach that number for one team. He also needs just seven touchdowns to pass Marshall Faulk’s 58 rushing scores for the most in franchise history.
Further, Jackson is hunting his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season, which would put him in even more exclusive company as one of only five backs in league history to reach that feat.
And while all of those milestones are within reach and things Jackson would love to accomplish, he’s way past the point where individual records are even close to as important to him as team goals.
“First and foremost, my goal is to get in the playoffs,” Jackson said. “At this point in my career, I want to focus on that part of it. I’ve been extremely blessed individually, now I’d like to start adding on to that team accomplishment list that I have for myself.”
Jackson has stuck with the Rams through the lean years after making the playoffs in his rookie season in 2004. Now entering his ninth season, Jackson hasn’t been back to the postseason.
Through each season and each regime change, Jackson has remained positive and hopeful that the next opportunity would be the one to turn things around. It hasn’t happened yet so Jackson isn’t letting his expectations get out of control.
Instead, Jackson is focused on doing what he can to make sure he’s helping his team try to reach those goals. That starts with staying in shape.
“I’ve always come in in great shape, and I take pride in that,” Jackson said. “So I feel just as good as any other year.”
That isn’t to say that Jackson doesn’t see some improvement and some positive signs around him. The addition of coach Jeff Fisher and staff brings some instant credibility as does the recent re-signing of end
Jackson himself has made previous mention of perhaps adding an extension to his contract to help ensure that he can finish his career in St. Louis where it all began. In light of Long’s contract, it would be natural to wonder if Jackson was in the offing for a new deal since his deal expires following the 2013 season.
But right now, Jackson isn’t letting any of those thoughts creep into his mind as he learns a new offense under coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, an offense in which he figures to be the most important cog.
“I was really stoked for (Chris), and I gave him a big hug when I heard about the news,” Jackson said. “As far as myself, what God has for me will happen and no one can take it from me, so I’m here ready to work.”