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Rams RB Jackson heads into finale amid questions

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Rams RB Jackson heads into finale amid questions

ST. LOUIS (AP) Running back Steven Jackson will have the option to explore free agency after the season, raising the question of whether Sunday's finale at Seattle will be his final game in a St. Louis Rams uniform.

Jackson intimated Thursday that he might retire at the end of this season. Though he laughed as he said it, the 29-year-old running back didn't retreat from the idea when asked how serious he was about the possibility

``If I have to write my story,'' Jackson said Thursday, ``I'd rather go out like Barry Sanders and leaving people to want more than to leave too late.''

So, how many more seasons does that mean are left for Jackson?

``Maybe this last one,'' he said laughing. ``Those hits hurt.''

Jackson negotiated earlier this year for the chance to opt out of his current contract at the end of this season with one year left on the deal. The nine-year veteran has expressed interest in ending his career with the only team he's played for in the NFL, but hasn't publicly committed to returning.

Coach Jeff Fisher said the team wants him back, but if Jackson asks for too many years or too much money he might price himself out of a Rams uniform. The only thing for certain following the season finale at Seattle on Sunday is that the team's active leader in rushing yards has the biggest decision of his career to make. Fisher said the team's made its decision.

``I think everybody in the building would like to have him back,'' Fisher said. ``It's just a matter of us sitting down and working things out.''

Jackson posted in his locker a list of the NFL's top 10 all-time rushing leaders and the three backs with at least 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving. He stands at 10,083 yards and needs 2,196 yards to equal Marshall Faulk, who Jackson replaced with the Rams, to get into the top 10.

Jackson also has 3,279 career receiving yards, though his 31 receptions and 276 yards this year are his lowest for a season not interrupted by a lengthy injury since he had 14 and 189 as a rookie in 2004.

He insists that he has neither thought about his future in terms of whether to return to St. Louis or climbing the all-time charts. He said his only considers this week possibly being his last with the Rams when asked.

``The only emotion I'm thinking about is going undefeated (in divisional play) and secondly my first possible winning season,'' said Jackson, who needs 10 rushing yards for his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season. ``Those are the only two things I'm thinking about and those are team things, so that's what's most important.''

St. Louis hasn't had a winning season since 2003, the year before Jackson arrived. It has twice finished with 8-8 records, most recently in 2006, before going 15-65 the past five years.

Playing with one of the youngest rosters in the league this season, the Rams are 7-7-1 and 4-0-1 in NFC West play. They also have two first-round draft choices next year, along with several extra picks garnered through trades and there is general optimism at the headquarters for the first time in years.

``I've come to understand in this league that it's truly year to year,'' he said. ``What coach Fisher has brought to this organization, the credibility, that going on in the future I definitely see a very bright future for this organization. Why wouldn't I want to be a part of that?''

How he answers his own question won't come until after Sunday and when, in Jackson's mind, the timing is right during the offseason to consider his future.

``I'll allow myself that time to sit back and reflect and think about things I've accomplished in my career and what I've done this season,'' he said. ``And think about how much longer I want to play this game, as well. There's going to be a small window of opportunity and I want to make sure I take full advantage of it.''

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

After his team showed resilience in erasing a 24-point lead to beat the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night, head coach Scott Brooks swept aside an opportunity to fire back at critics of himself and his team following a barrage of negative headlines in recent days.

Brooks did, however, take the time to address one particular angle of the whole mess. He issued a passionate defense of his star point guard, John Wall, who has been at the center of the controversies surrounding the organization.

Brooks and Wall had an altercation last week during practice that led to Wall receiving a fine from the team. Brooks spoke at length about the incident itself at shootaround. After Tuesday's win, he honed in on a specific criticism of Wall, that he is out of shape and not giving an honest effort on the floor.

"John, he's been taking hits. Let's face it," Brooks said. "You hear all the reports that he's heavy. The guy has seven percent body fat..."

"He's in great shape. I like the way he plays. He plays hard."

Brooks went on to point out how Wall hasn't been playing at 100 percent for much of this season. Wall has dealt with a deep thigh bruise and it's partly to explain for the Wizards' 6-11 start.

The overall numbers look about how they should for Wall.

He's averaging 21.5 points, 7.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. But his defense has been lacking and he's not getting the assists he usually collects because he hasn't had the same burst in transition.

Playing through injuries is always tricky for professional athletes. When people know they're hurt, that effort is often appreciated. But when the injuries aren't disclosed, fans and members of the media can only draw conclusions based on what they see.

Brooks explained in detail why he thinks Wall should be cut some slack for his start to the season.

"He's a warrior. There's a lot of guys that I've seen in my playing career that they love to sit out. They're just talented and they've got talented contracts. They sit out and you can't do anything about it. You admire and you appreciate and you celebrate the guys that play hard. You don't have to tell the world that he's banged up," Brooks said.

"He didn't say one word and I wasn't gonna say it. It's over. He's feeling great. He's fought. He's not gonna tell the world 'look at me, I'm sore.' He doesn't want your sympathy. He just fights and he plays the right way. He plays hard."

Brooks is clearly trying to stick up for his star player and change the current media narrative.

As long as the Wizards win, that shouldn't be hard to do.

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Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

The subject of trade rumors and reports of in-fighting at Wizards practice over the past few days, John Wall proved his worth to the Wizards on the court Tuesday night. 

Washington trailed the Clippers by as many as 24 points, but Wall helped orchestrate a furious comeback which concluded in a 125-118 Washington win. Wall led all scorers with 30 points and dished out eight assists. 

After the game, Wall opened up to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller about the cloud of controversy which has surrounded the Wizards this week, as well as a far more serious matter in his personal life: he's gonna be a dad soon!

"It's amazing, man. All the heart and effort and drive I've had for this organization, this team, to hear certain things like being traded, I try to stay focused," he told Miller. "Focused on getting ready to have my new son, trying to turn this organization around, this franchise around and win some games."

"All it is is go out there and compete, dog. All of us go out here and compete, that's one thing I always did since day one is give everything I got. And to hear those type of things, it's kind of funny. It's frustrating at the same time, but I've been through worse things. I just stand over top of all that."

And as his coach, Scott Brooks, has been preaching over the last few weeks, Wall believes the only way the Wizards turn around their season is if they show one thing: effort. 

"It's just about effort, man. Effort and heart," he said. "I've been preaching that since I've been here from day one, and in the second half we gave a lot of effort and heart. That's why we came back and fought hard, and got a great win that we needed."

"In the first half, we didn't play with no energy, no sense of urgency, and they beat the brakes off of us. We got to find a way to dig deep, and we made some big shots and got some big stops."

"It's not where we want to be, it's not where we started. Dealing with injuries, dealing with those type of things, you make no excuses. Whoever step between these lines, you go out there and compete, and that's all I ask for the14 guys, including myself, is to go play hard.

It's far too early to declare it as such, but if the Wizards can build off of Tuesday's performance, it may very well be looked at as the night Wall and Washington turned their season around. 

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