Jackson Is Healthy And Ready To Run

ST. LOUIS — If you still had any doubts about the health of St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson following offseason surgery on his back, you should watch his first carry from Saturday's preseason game against the Browns.

On the Rams' second play from scrimmage, first and 10 from the Browns' 49-yard-line, Jackson lined up in a single-back formation, took a handoff from quarterback A.J. Feeley and burst through a large opening on the left side of the line courtesy of left guard Jacob Bell, left tackle Rodger Saffold and tight end Billy Bajema.

Jackson wasn't touched until he was five yards downfield and then it took a group effort from four Cleveland Browns defender to get the bruising 6-foot-2, 236-pound running back to the ground.

"It felt great, man," Jackson said following Tuesday's practice. "I think it's one of those things that I've been saying I feel good, I've been saying I'm not nervous about the back but I think a lot of people question it. So we got that out the way on the first carry."

The veteran running back, in his seventh season out of Oregon State, finished with 20 rushing yards on just four carries during his one series of work that gave the Rams a 7-0 lead after Feeley's touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Fells.

The Rams will take a step forward in rookie quarterback Sam Bradford's development during Thursday's preseason game at New England when the No. 1 overall draft pick will take the field with Bradford for the first time in a game.

The former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Oklahoma will be making his first start of the preseason after Feeley injured his thumb during that first series against the Browns.

"It's going to be a big game for all of us, not just Sam," Jackson said. "It's a good measuring stick in the New England Patriots to see where we're at as a team, how far we have come. To go against (coach Bill) Belichick's defense and to go against a team that is as well-prepared and coached as he is, he's actually going to see what the NFL is like two weeks earlier than he would Sept. 12. It's a great test for him to see where he's at and give him some good material to study over the next two weeks and for us as a unit it allows for all of us to actually get together for the first time."

Jackson, who rushed for 1,416 yards during the 2009 season, knows there will be some added responsibilities on him in Thursday's game. The running back and the rest of the offensive unit have to try to keep the heat off the rookie quarterback and give him a chance to move the offense down the field.

"The most important thing is keeping the blitz off of Sam," Jackson said. "I have a feeling they are going to be aggressive and try to get under him and try to rattle his nerves, so that's the most important is for us to protect him. From there, execute our plays. Make sure that we're not allowing them to dictate our game plan but we're going out there and moving the ball and mostly in the red zone putting up seven points."

The 27-year-old All-Pro running back has been impressed with Bradford so far in training camp.

"This is my first time with a rookie quarterback but he is picking the offense up really well," Jackson said. "I mentioned earlier in an interview that he's able to correct personnel, he's able to correct some of the play-calls that come in wrong. That shows that he's in his playbook, that he's dedicated to what he's doing around here and that's pretty impressive that a young guy that has only been here for a few months is able to get the guys organized like that."

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