Altitude simulator helps keep Jackson going
Steven Jackson expects to breathe easy this weekend in Denver.
All season, the St. Louis Rams' running back has been using methods one might use before mountain climbing, so he's ready for the Mile High city.
A clear plastic tent surrounds a guest bedroom in the basement of Jackson's home, limiting the amount of oxygen to simulate high altitude. Jackson is sold on the altitude tent, which he believes helps him recuperate faster from the weekly pounding he takes, whether it's while napping or reading, or while spending the entire night at his personal base camp.
Since training camp, Jackson has used the device. He said a handful of teammates also have altitude tents.
''Just the abuse your body goes through, it helps the healing process a little faster,'' Jackson said. ''I've enjoyed it, I've been using it all season.''
One Internet advertiser touted it as an experience that would allow elite athletes to get the benefit of high altitude training while at rest, adjustable up to 21,000 feet.
A handful of Rams (4-6) struggled near sea level last week, with safety O.J. Atogwe and cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Justin King missing time due to dehydration. On a wall outside the team meeting room at Ram Park, there are signs imploring players to ''Make Sure We Hydrate All Week.''
Atogwe blamed his woes on a lack of carbohydrates in his diet, and thought it just a coincidence that three players were affected.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo was almost defiant that the team's regimen was sound.
''Let me just say something about that,'' Spaguolo said. ''We've been doing everything possible since the beginning of training camp with hydration. I don't know that there's any thing conceivably different we could do other than doing blood transfusions or something. I think we're all over it.''
Spagnuolo said altitude acclimatization is a simple matter of hydration.
''You can't really get too concerned about it because you can't prepare for something like that in five days,'' defensive end Chris Long said. ''You've just got to hope you're on top of your game physically, and try to get off the field.''
Discounting the benefits of the altitude tent, Jackson is feeling a lot more refreshed than usual. He's feeling more comfortable playing with a broken left ring finger that'll be held together with two pins the rest of the season, but didn't get his usual heavy workload in last week's loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons dominated in time of possession and limited the Rams to only 54 plays in a 34-27 loss, and Jackson was limited to 61 yards rushing and receiving with only 14 touches. The first nine games, the 235-pound Jackson averaged about 24 touches and he's long maintained that the more carries he gets, the softer the defense gets.
''I shouldn't feel this fresh,'' Jackson said, then repeated that sentence. ''We would like to get more chances in the running game, more chances to sustain drives. Who knows? I think it'll happen.''
The Broncos (3-7) have the second-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing a 143.5-yard average. But he expects Denver to load up against the run, just like every other opponent, and force rookie quarterback Sam Bradford to beat them.
''When we come to town, the defense shows up for us,'' Jackson said. ''I'm not going to disrespect the Denver defense and say we're going to come out there and we're just going to have our way in the running game. We're going to have to work for every yard we get, that's just how things are.''