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Rams running back Steven Jackson expects long NFL career

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 9:10 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Steven Jackson is coming off his seventh straight 1,000-yard season, so running back should be one position the St. Louis Rams won't worry too much about on draft day.

Though he'll be 29 in July, an end-of-the-line age for his position, Jackson believes he can play for several more years. Using Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen and Thomas Jones as examples, Jackson said he just has to make sure he stays healthy.

"You do hear the echoes and the whispers," Jackson said Wednesday as the Rams wrapped up a two-day voluntary minicamp. "It's doable. I just have to make sure I continue to take care of myself the way I have and continue to believe in myself."

Jackson contends he's a better back than when he was a rookie first-round pick out of Oregon State in 2004. He said he is just as physical and has a much better feel for the game now.

He is also excited about getting a chance to play for new coach Jeff Fisher, under whom the likes of Eddie George and Chris Johnson thrived at Tennessee. Fisher likes to grind things out, calling more runs than passes in several of his seasons with the Titans.

"I feel like I'm in my prime. I'm excited about what I can do in this offense," Jackson said. "Coach Fisher has a track record of having some great running backs, and I hope to add my name."

That goes for the coach, too.

"I've said this before. When a big back gets old, you look for one thing: Is he getting hit or is he getting tackled? Steven's still getting tackled, he's not getting hit, so he's got a lot left," Fisher said.

Jackson's play was among the few bright spots for the Rams during a 2-14 season and a 10-38 performance the last three years. They have the sixth pick in next week's draft after dealing the No. 2 overall selection to Washington for a pile of premium picks.

Jackson thinks St. Louis should take Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

Aside from a half-season with Brandon Lloyd in 2011, the Rams have lacked a premium go-to wide receiver for several years. They need a complement for Sam Bradford, the top overall pick in 2010.

"I believe Blackmon is an unbelievable talent," Jackson said. "We've all talked about Sam and what he can do with the tools he has. For us to fully see what he's capable of doing and seeing him blossom, you have to definitely get him weapons for the outside."

Blackmon's speed is good but not great. Jackson doesn't care.

"I hate to say this on record, but I will. Arguably the best receiver in football is Larry Fitzgerald, and he's not a blazer," Jackson said. "Those things you do in shorts really don't mean anything. It shows you're in shape and you can work out really good.

"Once you're in the line of duty and you're on the field, it's about are you instinctive, can you make plays?"

The Rams could take Alabama running back Trent Richardson, and Jackson said he'd understand.

"The Rams are going to do what's best for the Rams. I understand that, it's a business," Jackson said. "All I can do is try to be there for the young guy, and if he's receptive I'll help him. And if not you've just got to compete, and I'm not backing down."

The Rams tapped last year's roster for a veteran backup quarterback, signing Kellen Clemens and ignoring his poor production late last season on a team decimated by injuries. In three games, Clemens threw for just 546 yards with two touchdowns and was sacked nine times.

The 28-year-old Clemens is reunited with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who coached him for five seasons with the New York Jets.

"His first year there was my first year there, so we've gotten to know each other pretty well," Clemens said. "I'm very glad to be back. I was hoping to have an opportunity to come back."

Clemens said he had talked with other teams but made no other visits.


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