(FOOTBALL StL) - Once the season ends, veteran Rams running back Steven Jackson has a choice. It's quite simple, really. He can return to the Rams for another year. Or he can void his contract and become a free agent. One would have him in St. Louis. The other, quite obviously, would not.
It's not a stretch to say this is a humongous crossroads as it pertains to the future of the Rams organization.
I once heard someone - quite accurately - describe Jackson as "a pro's pro to end all pros pros". And my how true that is. For someone to be as great as him and not utter a single peep about wanting out of a losing situation is unheard of these days. Think about it. 15 wins in just five years? The worst five year stretch in NFL history?
You can go down the list of elite athletes who have publicly said they want to leave a team because they want to be on a winner. If Jackson were to do that no one would have thought twice. In fact, we all would have just nodded our heads in agreement that he's earned the right to do such a thing. It would have made perfect sense.
But never once has he ever said anything about wanting to leave St. Louis. Yes, he had an issue with his contract a few years ago and wanted more money. But, c'mon. Is that something you can look down on him for? As a running back you have a very short life span in this league. Your opportunity to cash in for you and your family is as small as it gets.
Other than that, he's been a complete model citizen for the last nine years. Rushing for more than 10,000 yards while enduring an absolutely horrendous supporting cast yet he still gets out in the community and makes a difference.
The days of SJ39 running for 1528 yards like he did in 2006 are over. The days of him scoring 16 touchdowns like he did that season are over too. He needs someone to spell him every so often so he can remain fresh for the 4th quarter and he doesn't quite have that home run speed he once did.
But who cares? He still is the absolute, unquestioned leader in that locker room. No one, and I mean no one, is a close second in that regard. He runs hard, is effective as a running back, and still can get to the corner. Just because he's not an All Pro doesn't mean his value to this team or this league is dramatically different.
I think Chris Carpenter has proven with the Cardinals how much leadership matters. Jackson has a similar effect on this bunch.
After Sunday we all will be in a waiting game. To void his contract and leave or not to void his contract and stay? That is the question.
For our sake, here's hoping Jackson's willing to give it another go.