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Linehan said earlier in the week that he didn't think it would take Jackson long to learn the new offense similar to that run by the 1999 Super Bowl championship team, because he participated in offseason workouts. New offensive coordinator Al Saunders was a top assistant under Dick Vermeil on that team.
Throughout the holdout, Linehan was careful to avoid criticism of Jackson. However, after the backup running backs combined for 144 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown in a 7-6 preseason victory over the Chargers on Saturday, the coach said Jackson's absence was getting to the critical stage.
It's likely Jackson will get a rude welcome back from fans in the Rams' third preseason game against the Ravens on Saturday. The Rams failed to sell out three games last season and Jackson was often critical of the lack of support.
Antonio Pittman, signed by the Rams last season after the Saints drafted him in the fourth round and then released him in their final roster cuts, gained 67 yards on nine carries last week as the stand-in feature back.
"I would approach it the same way if he was here," Pittman said. "I'm trying to compete and get better every day. Competition pushes us all and you can't look too far ahead. If you do, you might not be here."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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