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Jackson's continued holdout could jeopardize free agent status

MEQUON, Wis. -- Steven Jackson's holdout is headed for the two-week mark, and it appears little or no progress is being made.

The St. Louis Rams running back was absent for Tuesday's morning practice, the 16th workout he's missed in training camp and the 12th day of camp for which he has not been present.

This missed workout, though, could hold more weight than others. According to NFL rules, a player must be in camp 30 days before the start of the regular season or risk losing an accrued season of experience.

With his contract set to expire after this season, Jackson would have been free to hit the free agent market. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, a player needs four accrued seasons to become a free agent.

The 2008 season opens on Sept. 4 when Washington and the New York Giants square off. That means the 30-day deadline came Tuesday and Jackson was nowhere to be found at Concordia University, where the Rams are training.

Jackson has been in contact with players and coaches during camp but has not made any movement toward a return. His camp is not worried about losing an accrued season.

He could lose two accrued seasons. Owners have already exercised the option to shorten the current collective bargaining agreement in May. If a new deal is not put in place a player would need six years to become eligible for free agency after the 2009 season.

That could mean that Jackson couldn't become a free agent until 2010.

Coach Scott Linehan told the team's Web site there was no timetable for Jackson's return.

"If you have a timetable you set yourself up for disappointment," Linehan said. "I am going to be very pleased when it does happen. In the meantime, I will focus on the guys that are here and this Tennessee trip and it will all work out."

The Rams are spending the rest of the week training in Nashville with the Titans, in preparation for Saturday's preseason opener.

Soon after Jackson and agent Eugene Parker made it clear that Jackson would not be arriving when camp opened June 25, the Rams made it known they would not be willing to negotiate further until Jackson arrives.

Since that time there has been no movement from either side.

Linehan isn't worried. Yet.

"If he's not here when we have our first week of practice for the Philly game (the regular-season opener at Philadelphia on Sept. 7), I would be pretty concerned," Linehan said. "I don't foresee that. I don't think anybody knows when it's going to happen. I am very confident it will."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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