ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Steven Jackson missed his eighth straight practice Thursday, resting an aching back. On game day he'll again be carrying a heavy load for the St. Louis Rams' feeble offense.
Apparently, practice is overrated for the 235-pound running back who's the lone threat on one of the worst offenses in franchise history. Jackson's seven 100-yard games this season is a career best, including five of the last six, and he's done it for an offense that's scored 13 offensive touchdowns.
"First things first, is making sure I'm ready to go on Sunday," Jackson said. "Making sure my back is getting to the point where I can take the carries, take the pounding, that's what's more important."
If the Rams played Thursday night instead of Sunday at Tennessee, Jackson said he'd have missed it.
"I'm just being honest with you, because of the pounding I take on Sunday," Jackson said. "I need the entire week to get ready to do it again."
Jackson participated in a walkthrough early in practice and rode a stationary bicycle, and has been working with the strength and conditioning coach to keep his fitness level high. He prepares for blitz protection and route-running by watching more film than before, although he believes run reads are not a problem given the work he put in earlier in the season.
It's a maintenance routine that the Rams (1-11) may be forced to use the rest of the season.
"Long periods of standing and doing stuff with his back, we're just still being careful," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "The idea is to get him to the game on Sunday."
Jackson has been productive in two outings since hurting the back, if a bit stiff. Last week he had 112 yards on 28 carries in a loss at Chicago, and the week before that he had 89 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown in a loss at home to Seattle.
Jackson said he felt more himself last week.
"When I watch the film I kind of still feel like I wasn't getting under my pads like I'd like to, so I can tell that I'm bothered by it," he said. "But it didn't hurt as much."
This week there's plenty of motivation given the game features the NFL's top two rushers. The Titans' Chris Johnson has 1,396 yards and Jackson has 1,120 yards, and the pair are also 1-2 in yards from scrimmage.
"Chris is having an unbelievable year, he's having a year I can only dream to have one day," Jackson said. "I'm a big fan of his because not only is he a speedy guy but he's willing to take a pounding."
Jackson said he and Johnson have mutual friends and had planned on working out together last offseason, although the plans never worked out.
"Him being in Florida and me being out West, we just couldn't really match any dates up to be able to train together," Jackson said. "I think highly of his game."
Quarterback Kyle Boller (sore thigh) was limited for the second straight day along with fullback Mike Karney (neck). Rookie Keith Null, a sixth-round pick who has yet to play, got a lot of snaps with the first string.
Spagnuolo said Boller had to back off after taking close to a full load Wednesday while still fighting soreness from the Bears loss.
Offensive tackle Jason Smith (concussion) watched only a small portion of practice. Spagnuolo said Smith seems to have problems when he moves around, but said there's been no discussion about possibly shutting down Smith for the rest of the season.
"We're trying to get him through a few days where he doesn't have any symptoms," Spagnuolo said. "We're trying to get him back."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)