Yesterday's bloodsport between Atlanta and Philadelphia capped a full day of NFL gameday viewing. Jeremy Maclin, Matt Ryan and Michael Vick took hit after brutal hit. They had their bodies mashed, scissored and spindled, getting back up again and again. (Vick was eventually knocked out, though.) I sat there thinking "these guys are just different from the rest of us."
Steven Jackson isn't just different in his ability to play through pain, though. The running back for the St Louis Rams is otherworldly. Once maligned for letting minor injuries take him off the field, Jackson has become more durable in the later stage of his career.
Officially, Jackson is listed as "Questionable" with a strained quad muscle. As Will Carroll will helpfully point out, any strain is a partial tear in the muscle. That sounds bad, but his coach says he is "day to day."
Spagnuolo is set to work out Jackson tonight before making his decision. Based on past precedent, I don't think Jackson allows his coach to see an iota of weakness in that workout.
Almost exactly one year ago, in week 3 of the 2010 season, Jackson suffered another partial tear. This one was in his groin, the tiny muscles that attach the leg to the inside of the pelvis. Those muscles are notoriously difficult to work out, let alone rehab. Jackson missed the full week of practice, got acupuncture treatment, strapped on a harness and convinced Spagnuolo to play him.
Essentially limited to running in a straight line, Jackson carried the ball 22 times through anyone standing in his way. His work in the trenches helped lead the Rams to a 20-3 throttling of their longtime tormentors in Seattle, a breakthrough home win for Sam Bradford and the Rams.
Jackson again missed a full week of practice. Again, he sought acupuncture treatment, as part of his highly regimented self-care program. Again, he will stand eye to eye with Spagnuolo (if Spags stands on a step-stool) and talk his coach in to starting him.
"[Jackson] knows his body better than anyone else," coach Spagnuolo said earlier this week.
His team stands on a big stage against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, and needs yet another breakthrough win. If Jackson says he can go, do you think anyone will stop him?