(FootballStL) -- The end of Steven Jackson’s time with the St. Louis Rams could have gone much differently. The team’s all-time leading rusher could have made a big drama-filled scene when the Rams let him walk into free agency.
But he didn’t.
So when the Rams let him become a free agent, Jackson let his agent handle business as he ventured off on what has become an annual vacation for the world traveler.
“I put the criteria together as a list,” Jackson said. “I was telling my agent, ‘If teams are not looking at using me the way I wanted to be used, don’t even interrupt my vacation.’ I just let him deal with it from there.”
Keeping retirement as an option, the 30-year-old running back signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons in March. Out with the blue and gold, and in with the red and black -- a change many didn’t think would happen.
“Actually, it didn’t feel different until I actually saw it on film,” Jackson said. “When you actually look at it and you see yourself in red and black instead of the blue and gold, it was quite different then.”
It will also be different this Sunday when Jackson faces the team he spent nine years with for the first time in his career.
“It’s been a little bit different this week studying the guys, looking at them schematically, differently than I have over the years,” Jackson said. “It’s separating the personal from the business.”
The separation between personal and business has already begun as both teams started preparations for their matchup this Sunday in Atlanta. To give an example, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who converses frequently with his former teammate, hasn’t heard back from Jackson after sending a congratulatory text after he rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries in his Falcon debut.
And after seeing the competitive fury of Jackson, Quinn isn’t expecting a reply this week.
“They’ve done a good job of just checking in on me periodically making sure that things are going smooth for me and they wish me the best of luck on this season,” Jackson said. “We’ve all mutually agreed that we’re going to play each other hard come Sunday, but after that we’re going to root each other on throughout the season.”
The Rams began practicing for Sunday’s tilt with the Falcons in mind rather than just one player, who so happens to be a friend to most in the St. Louis locker room.
“He’s a good friend, but you play good friends throughout the year in this game,” defensive end Chris Long said. “When that happens, you kind of put that on the back burner a little bit and play football.”
But when Jackson does get the ball, the Rams have seen firsthand how hard it can be to tackle the 6-foot-2, 240-pound running back and will be up for the challenge.
“We told James (Laurinaitis) to be on the lookout,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “I think he’s coming after James first and foremost and the rest of us will follow so we got his back. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Laurinaitis, who led the team in tackles last season, said he didn’t have many opportunities to tackle Jackson in practice in order to protect him for games, but he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I try telling these guys on defense, especially the rookies that didn’t play with him, you got to tackle him low,” Laurinaitis said. “He’s a big man. Steven’s bigger than I am, so he’s bigger than me, he’s bigger than (Alec) Ogletree, he’s bigger than all of us. We’ve got to be ready to play.”