Steven Jackson's reworked contract with the St. Louis Rams gives him the option of testing the waters of free agency. It also provides him with another choice, one that's been largely overlooked until Thursday, retirement.
Jackson needs 10 yards in the Rams' last game of the season this weekend to post his eighth straight season with 1,000 rushing yards, something only five other players have accomplished. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame, the fifth will be as soon as he's eligible. The Rams running back is going to spend some looking back and mulling his options when the season ends Sunday.
"I will allow myself that time to sit back and reflect, think about the things I've accomplished in my career, what I've done this season and think about how much longer I want to play the game as well," Jackson said Thursday after practice. "It's going to be a small window of opportunity and I want to make sure that I take full advantage of it."
Though the "R" word came up, Jackson promised nothing. His words sounded much like so many other veteran players with a Canton-worthy resume, player that know this is the twilight of their career and trying to figure out where exactly the horizon is in order to ride off over it.
A first-round pick in 2004, Jackson has nine seasons of wear and tear. It's starting to manifest itself through a cascade of nagging injuries. Just how many seasons does he have left?
"Maybe this last one," Jackson confessed. "Those hits hurt."
Some rest and relaxation in the offseason is exactly what Jackson needs at this point, time to reflect. Most of the team would like to see Jackson come back next season.
"I think everybody in the building would like to have him back," head coach Jeff Fisher said. "It's just matter of us sitting down and working things out."
For now, the Rams aren't thinking that far into the future.
"We're just focusing on one game at a time," offensive coordinator Brian Scottenheimer said. "I know Steven's still got a lot left and we hopefully find a way to beat Seattle this week and get a winning record."
Jackson's contract allows for him to opt out of the final year, when he would be due $7 million in salary. The Rams also have the option of releasing him to clear up some room under a tight cap next year. If Jackson is in a Rams uniform next season, at 30, it's unlikely that he'll be there at that rate. A number of things could go into that decision, but it will mostly come down to what Steven Jackson decides is best for him. Like most of the game's greatest players - really, any entertainer worth their salt - he has no intention playing out his career slowed down or on injured reserve.
"I've always thought about it from day one," Jackson said. "I've always thought about what my exit strategy is going to be. If I had to write my story, I'd rather go out like Barry Sanders -- wanting people to want more than to leave too late."