Defensive end Darnell Dockett rumbles into the end zone after a fumble by Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) last season.
History says the Cardinals understand how to handle Rams running back Steven Jackson.
Linebacker Gerald Hayes doesn't want to hear about history, however.
"He's one of the great backs in this league," Hayes said. "To me, it's the next game. I know we have played Steven Jackson pretty good but we have to do that this weekend. Other games are in the past and it's the first time we play them this year."
The Cardinals have faced Jackson eight times since he came into the league, allowing an average of 55 yards a game and never giving up 100 yards in a game to the Pro Bowler. Last season, the Cards also forced a fumbled exchange between Jackson and quarterback Marc Bulger that defensive end Darnell Dockett returned for a touchdown in the Cards' NFC West-clinching win.
Jackson brushed aside the idea the Cardinals seem to have found a way to control him.
"It's hard to play in this league," Jackson said, "so if I gain two yards or 102 yards, I feel like I worked for it."
Jackson has been working this season. He already has 915 yards rushing as he aims for a fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and also has picked up 231 yards receiving as St. Louis' main offensive option.
More impressively, with the Rams lacking a good receiving corps and explosive passing game, defenses have been able to focus almost exclusively on Jackson with eight-man fronts.
"Eventually, we feel that eight-man box will break because once you get through that first level of defenders there is no one else left," Jackson said.
But Jackson acknowledged that ability only works if the game remains close, and that's something that hasn't happened a lot recently. The Cards have won the past three meetings by 24, 21 and 29 points.
That trend will continue if the Cardinals can clamp down on Jackson.
"He's playing as good as anybody in the league right now, breaking tackles, getting extra yards," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It will be one of those games, if we're going to have success, we have to do a good job tackling."
HAYES COMEBACK CONTINUES
Hayes practiced fully Thursday for the first time since missing the Chicago game with his back problems. Barring a setback he'll be back in the starting lineup Sunday in St. Louis, something he is anxious to do.
He laughed when he remembered his feelings Sunday when Seattle and running back Justin Forsett were able to run the ball well against the Hayes-less Cards' defense.
"Anytime you are out, you feel like could be doing something," Hayes said. "Even if you might not have been able to do anything, you always feel you could have done something."
But Hayes, as is his style, would not bite when asked if Seattle's success in his absence underscored how important he is, especially to the run defense.
"I don't think me myself is important as much as all 11 of us are important," Hayes said. "All 11, when we are healthy, makes us stronger. The starters, you want to go into a game with all of them."
Eight players were upgraded Thursday on their injury situations. Two players who didn't practice Wednesday were limited – CBs Bryant McFadden (ankle) and Michael Adams (hamstring) – while four joined Hayes in going from limited to full work – S Adrian Wilson (groin), WR Sean Morey (concussion), DE Kenny Iwebema (knee) and TE Ben Patrick (knee). G Deuce Lutui returned to practice after missing Wednesday for personal reasons.
Morey was cleared for contact. T Mike Gandy (pelvis), LB Karlos Dansby (shoulder) and WR Steve Breaston (knee) all were limited, but all are expected to be available Sunday.
WARNER THE ADVISOR
Quarterback Kurt Warner was named Thursday as part of a new NFL player advisory forum led by former Colts coach Tony Dungy. Dungy will hold a regular series of meetings in various NFL cities to get feedback from players on how to improve the game on and off the field. The group will work in conjunction with commissioner Roger Goodell.
Warner joins Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins as high-profile veterans working the cause.
"I think it's important because as a player, you understand what is important to players," Warner said. "What the league is trying to do is say, 'You guys are important to us, we want to stay abreast of the issues and what is going on and how can we make this the best league for you guys because you are the integral part of our success.'
"Having players that have played a long time and have seen a lot of things is going to be an advantage because it will allow us to bring up some of those issues that have been sticking points or avoided for a long time that players want addressed."
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