ST. LOUIS -- While Steven Jackson saves himself for Sunday, his rookie understudies are getting more shots to prove they belong.
The St. Louis Rams running back was held out of practice for the second straight day Thursday while nursing a nagging groin injury. Daryl Richardson, who's been impressive on game days, too, and Isaiah Pead got the bulk of the carries.
"The younger backs are coming along pretty good," Jackson said. "Daryl has done a good job of spelling me, a great change of pace back for me.
"As a unit, we're pretty solid. I continue to show them what it means to be a pro, day in and day out."
Richardson was the next to last pick of the draft out of Abilene Christian, typically a pick that's a long shot to stick. But he's been running ahead of Pead, a second-rounder, since the preseason.
At 196 pounds, Richardson is 40 pounds lighter than the bruising Jackson. Because of Jackson's down time -- he missed 21 snaps last week at Chicago -- Richardson has gotten a chance to be more than just a change of pace guy.
When Jackson needs a breather against the rugged Seahawks defense, Richardson will get the call. Seattle (2-1) is allowing just 58.7 yards rushing per game, second-best in the NFL.
"He just has shown an ability for big plays," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "It's really very, very close, but right now he's the guy that's ahead."
Pead started in Week 2 when the Rams (1-2) opened in a two-back set, but has played sparingly. He's still waiting for his first NFL carry and has one reception for 4 yards.
"I think it's great for Isaiah," Schottenheimer said. "It's a little bit of a challenge for him at a young stage of his career to learn that, hey, in this league you're not guaranteed anything."
Richardson has 119 yards rushing, only 21 yards behind Jackson, with a 5.7-yard average, and busted a 53-yarder in Week 2 at Detroit. He also has three receptions for 23 yards.
Jackson was held to 29 yards on 11 carries last week in a 23-6 loss at Chicago and his 3.4-yard average per carry is by far the worst of his career. Jackson averaged 17 carries per game last year and 20 in 2010, but the last two games has totaled 20 carries.
The practice-week routine is similar to the course taken with previous injuries to his quadriceps last year and back in 2010, with rest and rehab getting him to game day.
"If I can't get out there Friday, we still have 48 hours before the game to give us some more healing time," Jackson said. "It's one of those things, as much rest as possible."
Jackson has a chiseled, sculpted look, with body fat at less than 5 percent. He doesn't believe there's any correlation to any of his recent injuries.
Last year he also dealt with an early-season injury, hurting his right quadriceps without contact on his first carry of the season, a 47-yard touchdown jaunt.
"I don't like being hurt, put it this way," Jackson said, and added later that he wasn't playing "high school football."
"It's unfortunate mine came early, but hopefully I can get this out of the way and finish strong."
As a crowd of reporters and TV cameramen surrounded Jackson's locker stall in preparation for the running back's weekly briefing, Richardson sat quietly, unnoticed, at the next stool.
"If you're drafted in the first round, second round or wherever, you've got to work hard, man," Richardson said. "That's the big thing I hang my hat on, work ethic.
"The only thing I wanted was a chance to even be here, just to get the opportunity."
Draft day assessment also has been reversed for now at wide receiver, with fourth-rounder Chris Givens starting last week and second-rounder Brian Quick, the 33rd overall pick of the draft, among the game-day inactives.
"When he's on the field, defensive coordinators take notice because he's so fast," Schottenheimer said of Givens. "We've got some really talented young players and we need to play them. That's how you develop them. It's not from sitting them on the bench."