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Rams’ Jackson gets quality RBs to spell him

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson turned 28 last month and the St. Louis Rams have signed two backs to help spell him during games this season.

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Rams running back Steven Jackson gets ready for a drill earlier this week during camp in St. Louis.

Jackson has rushed for 7,984 yards in 100 games in his seven seasons. He has averaged 4.2 yards a carry. In those years, he never had a quality backup to spell him.

“I still feel fresh. I still feel young,” Jackson said after a long practice Thursday afternoon at Rams Park. “I’m looking forward to this year. I feel really good about the season and where we’re going. We’ve got some new fresh talent on this team and it’ll make each and every player better.”

The Rams believe they have remedied the backup situation by signing free agents Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood to one-year deals.

“I think the addition of both guys — Norwood and Williams — bring us depth and competition, which makes us better,” Jackson said. “Any time you have depth, that helps us overall.”

Actually, Jackson said the signing of free-agent right guard Harvey Dahl stood out more in his mind.

“In my opinion, that’s the best pickup,” Jackson said. “The right guard is a position you lean heavy on, especially in the run game.

“I think the Dahl addition lengthens my career. But I’m very excited about the new additions at running back. They’ll help us get better.”

The 5-foot-11, 217-pound Williams is expected to be the Rams’ No. 2 running back, while Norwood will be No. 3. Norwood also could serve as a kickoff returner.

Williams has played the last six seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He rushed for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie in 2005 and then gained 798 yards in 2006 before knee injuries limited him to 10 games over the next two seasons. He rushed for 823 yards and four touchdowns in 2009 before losing his starting job to LeGarrette Blount.

Last year, Williams still filled an important role for the Buccaneers as a third-down back, rushing for 437 yards and catching a career-high 46 passes for 355 yards and one touchdown.

Williams was the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft after rushing for 3,831 yards and breaking Bo Jackson’s school record for touchdowns with 45 during his four years at Auburn.

The 5-9, 209-pound Norwood, who turns 28 today, rushed for more than 600 yards in his first two seasons. He also returned kicks and sports a 25.5 career return average.

However, Norwood has played in only 12 games the last two seasons, including just two last year when he sustained a season-ending knee injury.

Norwood had his best season as a rookie in 2006 when he rushed for 633 yards and two touchdowns. He had 613 rushing yards and a touchdown in 2007 and he had 489 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2008.

The two new backs said they want to fit in however the team wants to use them.

“You know what, I’m not sure what my role is,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to coming out here and competing and help Steven Jackson and the offense in any way possible. I’m just looking forward to doing whatever.”

Williams was surprised to hear from the Rams.

“I knew they were in the hunt for a back but when they signed Norwood, I thought they were good but they called me and said they still wanted me,” Williams said.

Norwood said he is healthy and ready to go.

“I’m always going to out and give 110 percent and I’ll always do my best to help this team in any way possible,” Norwood said. “I’ll keep a good attitude, keep a smile on my face and be a winner.”

Notes: Last year, Williams caught a 1-yard TD pass with 10 seconds left to lift Tampa Bay to an 18-17 win over St. Louis. ... After an hour of practice, the Rams’ 16 free-agent veterans were allowed to participate after the NFL players ratified a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement. ... ... WR Dominique Curry sustained a fractured hand during practice. ... No. 1 pick DE Robert Quinn was taken off the non-football injury list and is expected to practice today.

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