I've changed my worried about Steven Jackson indicator light, moving it up a notch from yellow (sleep tight) to orange (well, maybe just a little).
Remember, last year, when the Rams got off to a slow start we all immediately pointed to the lack of play by the starters in the preseason games. Steven Jackson, in particularly, opened the season against Carolina by losing two fumbles and looking lost on 18 carries for a mere 58 yards. An ugly start to an ugly season...for almost everyone wearing gold horns.
But, not playing in the preseason differs quite a bit from missing the first three days of camp. But the Rams have new offensive coordinator with a thick ass playbook. Sure, it doesn't figure to be vastly different for Jackson as compared to say the wide receivers and tight ends, but still, sometimes that first week of class has info you need for the test anyway. The point being: it's not the end fo the world yet, but I'm anxious to see Jackson in camp.
I compared Jackson's situation to Bulger's last year, noting that Bulger missed some early hours of camp while hammering out a contract. Bulger and the Rams were working on deal, buring the midnight oil to get the QB in camp and ready to go. The negotiations with Jackson seem more contentious. Unlike Bulger last season, Jackson doesn't have an excused absence and the team is fining him $15k for each day he misses and not willing to talk contract until Jackson gets to camp.
The fact of the matter is, the Rams are going to end up paying richly for Jackson, if they want him, and by all indications - see Saunders, Al - they do want him. It'll be cheaper to sign him now, than wait for him to put up MVP numbers this season, a la Shaun Alexander circa 2005.
While I haven't read anything indicating this, it's a safe bet Jackson wants a deal similar to the one the Cheifs gave last summer's hold out sensation, Larry Johnson, and with the current market structure in the NFL, that kind of deal wouldn't be out of line for a 25-year-old running back whose best years are still in front of him.
We'll see what shakes out, right now, all we know is that Jackson's not in camp and the two sides aren't talking dollar bills until he gets there. I suspect Jackson won't report to camp and talks won't budge until he gets some assurance that the Rams at least intend to give him a Larry Johnson kind of deal...or they agree to let Jackson run wild in his last year and test the free agency waters next spring. That last option isn't the smart play for the Rams, who need to worry about addressing other needs in next year's draft besides running back.
Either way, we've got some summer drama to distract from what's taking place on the field.