PITTSFORD – Fred Jackson’s 7-year-old son, Braeden, stood next to the interview podium and asked his dad a question at the end of a news conference Wednesday.
“Can I tell you how many years I want you to play?” Braeden asked.
“OK, you tell me how many I’ve got to play,” dad replied.
“Five,” Braeden answered.
“Five more years, there you go,” dad said. “Five years it is.”
Let’s call it two for sure, after Jackson signed a one-year contract extension, through the 2015 season.
By the end of his new contract, Jackson will be 35 years old and will have spent 10 full years, a football eternity, in the Bills’ organization.
Jackson already has the credentials to be a Bills Wall of Famer. His 5,121 rushing yards rank him third on the Bills’ all-time list, behind only Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson. He also has 2,139 receiving yards and is the only Bills back besides Thomas to have at least 4,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards.
He is thrilled and motivated by the prospect of spending his entire NFL career with the Bills.
“That’s why signing this extension is so special,” he said. “It gives me that opportunity. I’m one step closer to being able to finish my career in Buffalo. That’s what I always wanted to do.”
Jackson was entering the final year of a contract he signed in 2012. It will pay him $2.7 million this year. The new deal is expected to pay him $2.6 million for 2015, with the chance to earn more in incentives. Jackson thanked Bills President Russ Brandon, general manager Doug Whaley and “the late, great Mr. Wilson,” referring to Bills founder Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
“It’s every player’s dream to play for one organization, and with this extension that gives me an opportunity to do that,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of support throughout the years.”
Most NFL running backs see a big drop in production after age 30. Because Jackson has split duty at running back most of his seasons, one could argue he’s a “young 33.” He has 1,394 touches in his career. By comparison, Thomas, the Bills’ Hall of Famer, had 3,276 touches at Jackson’s age.
“I just love to play this game,” Jackson said. “Usually when guys get my age they’re ready to kind of shut it down and not come out here and get beat up like we do in training camp. But I wake up every day and I love it.”
Jackson was one of the Bills’ best players last year, with 1,277 yards from scrimmage, which ranked 13th among NFL running backs. That came despite the fact he played the second half of the season on a sore knee.
This summer, Jackson looks good, hitting holes hard and running “downhill” with aggression. Asked how he feels, Jackson said:
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time. Hopefully I can continue to feel like that, get into the season and make some plays for my team, and it’s all worth them giving me this extension.”
“One of the main things is I’m not dealing with any injuries, coming off IR or things like that,” Jackson said. “I had a tremendous offseason with our strength and conditioning coaches. I think they did a great job getting me to where I am today. So I’ve got to give those guys huge credit.”
“I’m hungry and motivated,” Jackson said. “I feel a renewed sense of getting this thing turned around with some of the moves we made in the offseason, putting some pieces around us. I think that’s got to have a lot of guys excited, and I’m one of them.”
Said Bills coach Doug Marrone: “I love Fred. I think Fred’s been a great pro. In my time here with him, he’s been a very good leader and very productive. I’m excited about him. … The way he runs and the way he prepares himself is a credit to how he takes care of his body.”