--The speculation was fueled by a report on NFL Network that Rams running back Steven Jackson is unhappy with his contract, leading to even more chatter that Alabama running back Trent Richardson would be the team's target in the first round Thursday night. While it turned out they weren't in position to get Richardson, there is still the supposed issue with Jackson to contend with.
Of course, Jackson isn't talking and the Rams says they have heard nothing from Jackson's camp about improving or extending a deal that will pay him $7 million in each of the next two seasons.
So, was it smoke or just a smokescreen? Asked at a pre-draft press conference Wednesday about the rumors, coach Jeff Fisher said, "I think you stated it accurately: rumors. Steven is here. He's in the offseason program, he's upstairs every other day. He's doing great, having fun learning the offense. No discussion, conversation or anything along that sort to my knowledge."
In the initial report on NFL Network, Michael Lombardi said, "The problem with Steven Jackson is he wants to redo his contract. He's not happy where he is. ... I would suspect that the Rams would (draft) the running back as quickly as they could."
Asked to comment on rumors Jackson could be traded, Fisher said, "Same thing. We talk about the potential ways of improving the roster, but his name has not been floated out there and I don't know where it's coming from. There were some rumors back when we did the trade with the Redskins that Sam's name (Bradford) was floated out there. People were just trying to create some excitement."
Meanwhile, if Jackson is unhappy, he has given some Academy Award-worthy performances in press conferences.
Near the end of last season, when he was asked if he ever wondered about being with the Rams through all the losing, Jackson said, "That was a question I asked myself about three or four years ago I guess. At this point now I think it's clear that my legacy will be defined by me having dealt with these hard situations and watching me grow, you guys watching me grow and understanding that now I have become a pillar of strength more so than just a running back.
"It's hard to be a great running back when you have guys like Marshall (Faulk) and Eric Dickerson that were in this franchise. My legacy will be defined by the things that I have overcome and the adversity."
Last week at the team's minicamp, Jackson was effusive in his praise for Fisher.
"Unbelievable," Jackson said. "I had a chance to meet with him the week after his initial introduction to the team before you guys. I flew in, had a meeting with him and everything went smoothly and everything so far has gone smoothly. I think he's assembled an unbelievable coaching staff. I watched the process from afar, but I was well aware of some of the people we were interviewing. The selections that he's made, he's put together a pretty high class group of coaches that will help him execute what he wants to do."
When asked about playing for a coach that puts a premium on running the ball, Jackson said, "I'm extremely excited. I was saying earlier that he's coached some unbelievable running backs and guys have had a lot of success in this offense and under his leadership. I'm looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully over the next few years while we're together, I can put my name up there with the lines of some of the other guys that have played for him."
Finally, Jackson was asked what his reaction would be if the team selected Richardson.
"The Rams are going to do what's best for the Rams," he said. "I understand that. It's a business. All I can do is through my own lessons, replacing another legend, is try to be there for the young guy. If he's receptive, I'll try to help him and do the world for him. If not, he's just got to compete, and I'm not backing down."
--Coach Jeff Fisher loves what he has in first-round pick Michael Brockers.
Said Fisher, "Michael, he's a big man. At 322 pounds he's explosive, he's very instinctive. For not having played, for not being a four-year starter, he's very, very instinctive. He can play across the face of blocks, he pushes the pocket, he can collapse, he can get on an edge, he plays with effort. I mean, what else can you say? And there's so much more ahead of him. He's going to develop into a fine player.
"And he's an outstanding young man, great character guy, hard worker. He's the complete package, now. He's what you want in a defensive tackle, especially in our division with the downhill runs and things like that. One person I know that's smiling right now is (linebacker) James Laurinaitis."
Asked if Brockers is NFL ready, Fisher said, "He's NFL ready. He's not what you refer to as a project that's going to take a couple years to get on the field and make a play here and there. He's going to play. He's a good football player."
With free-agent additions on the line like defensive tackles Kendall Langford and Trevor Law, and end William Hayes along with returning ends Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Eugene Sims, and returning tackle Darell Scott, Snead said, "Not only do we get one of the players we wanted, but we made the defensive line unit one of our strongest units on the team."
--When Les Snead came to the Rams as general manager, he had a lot of personnel evaluators to get to know. Wednesday, the day before the draft, Snead said the work the department has done has been impressive.
Said Snead, "The whole department; you know some of them because this is a small league. Some you don't. I think just like in any business, they have a job to do. They've been doing it, and the final presentation of their evaluation on the player, that's the best resume they could have. It's neat in that you don't know anybody. They're not really trying to tell either Jeff or I what we want to hear. They're just giving us their honest opinion on a player. So, I think that's been a nice part of the process."
Fisher said, "We gave the analogy when we met in the draft room Monday morning two weeks before the combine, several days after Les joined us for the first time with the scouts, it was like it was the first day in school. We were in the classroom and everybody was looking around. We almost had to have introductions. To see how far it's come from that point, it's been very impressive. The scouts are very, very talented. They're well organized. The dialogue that's taken place as we've gotten closer and closer to the draft has done nothing but improve. We've come a long way and the board's just about set and we're ready to go."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"The big, physical, dominating linebackers are hard to find. There are some out there, but they're not enough to go around." - Coach Jeff Fisher, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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