Steven Jackson has been through this before. He’s getting to the point in his career where he doesn’t want more change. He just wants to know the team’s coaching staff gives him and the team the best opportunity to win.
It would be an understatement to say Jackson believes owner Stan Kroenke got it right with the hiring of Jeff Fisher as head coach.
Asked about the attitude of confidence that Fisher exudes, compared to the past, Jackson said. “It’s quite a difference. Nothing against what I’ve had before coach Fisher, but you can definitely tell a difference in leadership, a difference in confidence. It’s not so much of on-the-job training. I’m just impressed by what he’s assembled with assistant coaches around him. We have very credible coaches that are teaching me and some of my teammates. It’s just impressive, what they’ve been able to accomplish in some of their own careers.
“It’s very refreshing to have a coach that has that kind of resume and brings that kind of credibility. You can just feel it. It’s quite a difference. I haven’t felt this way since the 2004, 2005 years, where now it’s more so ‘when’ is it going to turn around, not ‘if’ it’s going to turn around.”
However, the one irony is that Jackson’s position coach is a neophyte in his first season in the NFL after coaching at Rutgers.
Of Ben Sirmans, Jackson said. “He has a fresh pair of eyes. Where some things that may have become a bad habit or something, he has fresh eyes, he can see. But it’s definitely going to be a learning experience for both of us. He has to learn how long the NFL season is, what it takes to keep a guy fresh for 20-some odd weeks and hopefully prepare for a playoff run.”
The offense is another new one for Jackson, but he echoed the words of quarterback Sam Bradford, who has noted the similarities to the 2010 offense to the one now being installed by coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Said Jackson, “This offense is very similar, not identical, but very similar to what we ran two years ago with Pat Shurmur and his offense. The learning curve has not been too harsh on myself. Sam is looking good, our receivers; we have a deep group that is very competitive that’s going to not only help us, but is also going to bring the best out of each individual guy. All in all, as an offense we’re looking good. And especially (offensive line) coach (Paul) Boudreau up front, what he’s doing with the offensive line is very impressive as well.”
There is true optimism in Jackson’s voice when he is asked if the team accomplished what it set out to do in the offseason.
“I believe so,” he said. “We have a lot of turnover from last season to this season. It’s an entirely new team and new staff. But from what we’ve been able to accomplish from the draft, signing guys in free agency and OTAs and minicamp, I think we’re moving at a pretty good pace. I think guys are grasping the schemes and we have some talent. I think, we’re actually going to be able to put together a nice team for the upcoming season.”
As Jackson said when asked about being ranked No. 37 in the NFL Network’s top 100 players, “It feels good to be acknowledged, but it doesn’t stop my focus to get to the playoffs and hopefully get to a Super Bowl.”
— Quarterback Sam Bradford was back at his high-school football stadium in Putnam City, Okla., recently when he participated in the coin toss for the Jim Thorpe High School All-Star game. The game was part of the Jim Thorpe Native American Games.
Asked about the Native American Games by The Oklahoman, Bradford said, “I think it’s awesome what they do. I’ve been working with them now for the past two years. Just the fact that they’re committed to inspiring kids to use sport as a positive thing in their lives, and they allow them to have access to it, I think it’s great. The fact that they’re putting on this game tonight is even better.”
When questioned about his ankle, which was injured during the 2011 season, Bradford said, “It’s good, it’s good. I would say there’s still days where it’s not 100 percent, but I really haven’t had any major setbacks. It seems to be getting better every week. I’m hoping by the time training camp gets here that it’ll really be a non-factor.”
— Bradford also has donated $500,000 to help the building of a new housing facility for students at Oklahoma that will be ready in 2013. Called Headington Hall at a total cost of $75 million, the dining hall will be called the “Sam Bradford Training Table.”
Said Bradford, “My experience at Oklahoma made it possible for me to realize my dreams. The coaches, the academic environment and every aspect of being a student-athlete at OU made me a better person. I am honored to give back to a program that did so much for me and hope that in some way this contribution can make it possible for those who follow me to enjoy the same kind of experience I did as a Sooner.
“Obviously, Oklahoma is really the reason I am where I’m at today. I had a great experience at OU. It was a dream come true for me to go there and get the opportunity to play football. I just felt like me making a donation is a small thing I can do to help show my gratitude for what they did for me.”
It’s notable that the dining hall will bear Bradford’s name because when he left Oklahoma he made a point of telling vice president for intercollegiate athletics Joe Castiglione that some day he would give money to improve the food for student-athletes.
Bradford told stlouisrams.com, “I never complained about it when I was there but when I left I definitely told Joe Castiglione that if there was one thing I could change, our training table would be better. I hope that when it does get built and it is finished I hope that future student-athletes can have top of the line meals, the best there is. And I hope that their experience is as good at OU as mine was.”
Said Castiglione, “Sam Bradford developed into a consummate leader and an award-winning student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma. Sam embraced our incredible tradition here at OU and was relentless in helping his teammates enhance it. In Sam’s typical humble fashion, he continues to serve as a wonderful role model for all OU alumni through his actions and deeds like this generous gift to OU Athletics and Headington Hall. Just as others before him, he leaves a legacy which allows future student-athletes to enjoy that same experience of a lifetime he relished. We appreciate Sam’s commitment to this project that will benefit a wide range of students, and improve the quality of life for the entire OU campus.”
— Back in early February, the Rams won a minor bidding war for Canadian League tackle Jovan Olafioye, and then abruptly waived him for a failed physical without explanation.
Playing for the British Columbia Lions, Olafioye was named the runner-up as the league’s most outstanding lineman in 2011. He had numerous workouts for NFL teams and as many as 15 teams expressed varying degrees of interest.
The contract he signed with the Rams was for minimum base salaries, but a total of $85,000 of those salaries during the first two years would have been guaranteed.
With Olafioye now back with the Lions in training camp, the Vancouver Sun reported what it was that caused the Rams to release him: Hypertension/high blood pressure.
The Lions figure this will be the 24-year-old Olafioye’s final season in Canada if he continues taking care of himself. It turns out the red flags occurred because he had stopped taking his medication during his busy tryout schedule.
“I stopped taking my medication,” he recently told the Sun. “Me, just being young, thinking about the workouts, I thought I would be all right if I just ate right. I thought, ‘I should be good.’ Was I trying to do the right thing, and it turned out not to be the right thing? Exactly. I’m taking my meds now and staying away from things like red meat. I’m eating lots of salads.”
The irony is that his father is a doctor and his mother is a nursing assistant. Olafioye now understands the importance of managing his condition because it runs in his family and because of his size (6-6, 325).
Having the Rams release him was a low point, especially given the fact his teammate, linebacker Solomon Elimimian, signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
Said Olafioye to the Sun, “It was a difficult time. My dream was always to go to the NFL. To get so close, and have it taken from me, was hard. It was really hard on my family. They know how hard I’ve worked to get there. But I look on it as a little bump in the road.”
As for Elimimian, Olafioye said, “Hopefully, I’ll join him (in the NFL). I’ve got three doctors who’ve cleared me. I could get another shot. I’m ready to go.”
Lions general manager Wally Buono figures that will be the case after this season.
“He’s going to just play, hopefully his medical situation stabilizes, and the NFL gives him another opportunity,” Buono said. “I’m hoping that Jovan, by staying disciplined to what he needs to do medically, will get that chance.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “The days of hauling around a big notebook are over, so that’s good. I’ve just got to hide it from my kids. They all want to play. They want to download apps. I don’t know if coach will like that.” – Running back Steven Jackson on the switch to the iPad for the team’s playbooks.