St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson took the field in week 8 against the Carolina Panthers having undergone surgery on a broken left ring finger less than a week prior, surgery that resulted in pins being added to the hand. Jackson was hurting, and plenty of lesser players would have sat out under similar circumstances.
But those players are not Steven Jackson. After racking up more than 100+ yards of rushing in three games prior to this one, Jackson ran for only 59 yards on 23 carries. The stats didn't matter much in this outing. Jackson's presence on the field forced Carolina to account for him, often using 8 defenders to stack the box. Something that's definitely not reflected in the box score is the Rams use of Jackson to move the ball and burn the clock protecting the team's lead in the second half. It might be the least attractive task in the game for a player of Jackson's ability, but SJ39 gladly embraces the role knowing that it's still an important contribution.
Watching Jackson out there with a cast on his hands, and his Eric Dickerson tribute getup, reminded me once again of just how important he is to this team. Yes, Sam Bradford gets a lion's share of the press now, but Jackson is still the heart and soul of these Rams, leading by example and showing the young players just how essential laying it all out on line is to be successful in this league, both as a player and for a team.
Another player that has to be mentioned for his grit in recent weeks is CB Ron Bartell. Dealing with a bruised thigh, Bartell didn't even start against the Panthers. Nevertheless, he saw plenty of action, especially in the second half of the game when he returned to action after suffering a shoulder injury in the first half.
Several Carolina receivers had to deal with Bartell throughout the game, not just Steve Smith. However, Bartell and the rest of the Rams secondary limited Smith to just 85 yards on 9 catches...9 catches on 15 targets, impressive in and of itself.
Bartell finished the game with 6 tackles, 4 solo and 2 assists, and 2 passes defended.
Hats off to both Jackson and Bartell. These gritty veterans are what the new St. Louis Rams are all about: playing tough, playing at a consistently high level with the highest of expectations for the team and themselves. Players like this are a sure sign of the Rams' turnaround.