ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Steven Jackson has played four games without practicing because of a lower back injury. The St. Louis Rams' running back sees no reason why he can't play two more.
Jackson refuses to consider shutting himself down for the rest of the year, even if his team is 1-13.
The bruising back had another strong game in Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Texans, rushing for 82 yards and adding four catches for 41 yards. The Rams are the NFL's lowest-scoring team with an 11-point average, and the offense would really be in dire straits without him.
So he's not listening to those suggesting he watch the final two games.
"It's been whispered in my ear and that's from people on my side looking out for best of my future," Jackson said. "But I love to play and we only have two games to play, so I'm just going to gut it out."
That's music to rookie coach Steve Spagnuolo's ears: "I'm glad he said that."
Medical staff has told Jackson the back injury won't heal until the offseason and it's caused him to use a more upright running style. He felt well enough to consider practicing last week -- if he hadn't been sidelined by flulike symptoms. The Rams canceled one practice on Thursday after a confirmed case of swine flu (center Jason Brown) and Jackson also was out on Friday.
Jackson said getting some practice repetitions will help improve timing with rookie quarterback Keith Null, who has started the last two games. The Texans scored their lone touchdown after a botched handoff led to a Rams lost fumble.
"It's getting to the point where I'm managing to be able to take a few carries in practice," Jackson said. "I really want to do that for me and Keith so we can get on the same page with footwork, getting a feel for one another.
"It's not so much that the back's getting better, it's just a matter of just wanting to get that chemistry."
Null, a sixth-round pick, has been thrust into action due to injuries (Marc Bulger) and a combination of injury and illness (Kyle Boller). Jackson gives the rookie out of Division II a level of security.
"He plays unbelievable every week," Null said. "The guy works his tail off, even when he's hurt. Going out there and having him behind you and protecting you makes you feel a lot more comfortable."
Jackson had his helmet ripped off three times Sunday, the last resulting in a fourth-quarter fracas with the Texans' Bernard Pollard that left him with a swollen lip and facial lacerations. Spagnuolo said Jackson emerged from the game with normal soreness.
Spagnuolo hedged on a quarterback for this week's game at Arizona, wanting to see Boller practice Wednesday before making a decision. He thought Null improved from his debut a week earlier, when he threw five interceptions.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)