Steven Jackson still at center of Rams' offense -

Steven Jackson still at center of Rams' offense

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- New Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wanted an intense training camp and he's got one -- almost too intense.

On Wednesday, second-year linebacker Chris Chamberlain hit running back Steven Jackson's knee while making a tackle. Fortunately for the Rams, Jackson was OK.

The West Coast offense being installed by new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur focuses on short passes and the run, aiming to take advantage of Jackson, who has topped 1,000 rushing yards four straight years.

Jackson is "right on target," Spagnuolo said. "He did a great job in the offseason. He's in great shape. So far, so good."

No one is more key to helping the Rams shrug off a 2-14 season than Jackson.

Last season, he missed the entire training camp because of a holdout before signing a six-year, $44 million contract. He missed four games because of a right quadriceps injury, but still wound up with 1,042 yards.

This season, hopes to return to his form of 2006, when he scored 16 touchdowns, rushed for 1,528 yards and caught 90 passes for 806 yards. In the new offense, he will likely move around, sometimes even lining up at wide receiver. He admits there's a bit of a learning curve.

"It's really a lot of hard work on me ... to make sure I know the different formations, because I can be the X receiver at any time as well as a running back," Jackson said. "So whatever play comes in the huddle, I have to be able to digest it and put myself in whatever area it is."

Unlike years past, Jackson is not stating any personal goals for the upcoming season.

"I'm just trying to be a leader and be an all-around captain for the offense," he said.

Since taking over in January, Spagnuolo has sought to rebuild the long-struggling Rams into a younger, bigger, more intense team. St. Louis is a woeful 5-27 over the past two seasons.

As part of that effort, Spagnuolo's first training camp since coming over from the New York Giants, where he was defensive coordinator, has involved two-a-day workouts featuring pads and full-contact drills.

So far, he's been pleased with the team's intensity.

"This group is a very competitive group," Spagnuolo said. "That's what we're kind of learning. They want to compete, they want to get better and they want to be in those situations where it's tough on them. And if they continue to think like that, I got to believe that's going to help us."

Fullback Mike Karney and guard John Greco did not practice Wednesday because of ankle injuries. Spagnuolo did not have a timetable for the return of either player.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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