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 ST. LOUIS (AP) -A 1,000-yard rushing season, which became the mark of excellence in the NFL when teams played fewer games, is almost commonplace today with a 16-game schedule. Fifteen players have topped the milestone and three more are in easy range headed into the final week of the season.
``I guess it's a nice number,'' St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said. ``I don't think 1,000 yards is what it used to be.''
In Steven Jackson's case, however, it will be an achievement if he makes it for the third straight year. He's trying to do it the old school way, given he's missed four games and most of a fifth with injuries yet still has 947 yards, a 4.3-yard average and five touchdowns headed into Sunday's finale at Arizona.
Besides his own injuries, other hardships he's overcome include running behind a banged-up line that has been missing three starters most of the season and taking handoffs from three different quarterbacks for the Rams (3-12).
``It would be tremendous to reach 1,000 yards,'' Jackson said. ``I feel really strong. My groin and my back, I rehabbed and worked out like crazy to make sure I could finish the season strong and healthy.''
Jackson led the NFL with a franchise record 2,334 yards from scrimmage last season, including 1,528 yards rushing. This year he's been held back by a partially torn groin and a bulging disc in his back that limited him to one quarter against the Browns in his first game back from the groin injury.
The last six weeks, he's been on his game. Although he has only one 100-yard game in that span, getting a season-high 143 yards on 24 carries against the Packers on Dec. 16, Jackson has had 85 or more yards in each of the other five contests.
Against the Steelers last Thursday he averaged a season-best 7.1 yards per carry, but because the Rams were in catch-up mode he was limited to 85 yards on 12 attempts. Jackson averaged 4.4 yards last season.
``He's starting to warm up,'' coach Scott Linehan said. ``It's meaningful to the line, the offense and all of us that we go out and establish the line of scrimmage and get him back into that 1,000-yard club.
``The plan is to have many, many more with him as well.''
Jackson's receiving numbers have taken the biggest hit this season. He has 37 catches for 270 yards and a 7.3-yard average with one touchdown a year after setting another franchise record with 90 receptions by a running back, sixth in NFL history. Jackson said he's become something of a marked man.
``I'm getting a lot more attention and linebackers are not allowing me to run freely,'' Jackson said. ``You can definitely see this year that coordinators are making sure I'm not getting the ball as smooth as I did last year.''
Rams players had three days off after the Steelers' loss, leaving some players fighting a sluggish feeling when they returned. Not Jackson.
``At this point, you're just hoping to build off something,'' Jackson said. ``I play hard particularly to carry it into the offseason. Then you can evaluate what's going on and it helps find answers to some of the questions you have may have.''
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