Steven Jackson is no longer a Ram. The next time he crashes through a crowd of would-be tacklers, the paint he trades with those unlucky defenders will no longer be flecked with blue and gold. The next time he posterizes an A-gap rusher, the quarterback he protects will no longer be Sam Bradford.
The next time the lights dim in the Edward Jones Dome and the Rams players line up to race out of the tunnel, the dreadlocked beast wearing #39 will no longer be leading the charge.
While the pre-draft offseason is always a kindler of hopes and optimism, the losses of Steven Jackson and (to a slightly lesser extent) Danny Amendola leave huge craters that must be filled. Both were emblematic of the Rams, personnifying the team's heart as well as its flaws. Neither scored enough, neither won enough, but neither ever left anything on the field.
It's difficult to encapsulate the legacy that he leaves behind here in Saint Louis, but it's fair to say that the Rams will have a significantly different identity when they step on the field in 2013. Perhaps Sam Bradford will manage a breakthrough with more offensive weight placed on his shoulders. Or, perhaps the young offense will fail to gel and cede the team's full identity to Jeff Fisher's cadre of punishers on defense.
Until Bradford and the offense rise or fall in his absence, Jackson's legacy in St Louis won't be fully defined. But Mike Sando might have come closest so far:
Jackson represented what was right with a too frequently dysfunctional Rams culture over most of the past decade. He also provided a high-profile link to a painful era in Rams history. Every victory he enjoyed came in the context of the pain that had come before.
Now, Jackson has the opportunity to pile on victories with a loaded offense in Atlanta. Each victory he enjoys there, perhaps even a championship, will be measured here in St Louis by the context of what comes next for the Rams.