It took a bit longer than most expected, but on Wednesday less than a week before offseason training activities on the field begin Fred Jackson was signed to a multi-year extension.
"It was something that we've been working on for a little while now," said a relieved Jackson. "With it being over and done with now, it's just about playing football, so you just want to go out and just play football. It's a kid's game and as long as you have fun doing it, you're going to enjoy it."
Widely considered one of the team's most productive role players, Jackson could have been forced to play under a one-year exclusive rights tender in 2009. But the Bills recognized Jackson's contributions over the past two seasons and made a long term commitment to the multi-threat back.
And Jackson's versatility will be needed even more at the start of the 2009 season with feature back Marshawn Lynch to sit out the first three games of the season due to suspension.
"I'm so excited," said Jackson of the chance to start. "It's one of the things I'm looking forward to. I'm not too happy about the way that it's going down that I'm going to be in the starting role in the first three games, but it's the dream of every kid who plays football. It's a process that I'm going through right now that I'm headed into the season knowing that I'm going to be the guy that they're going to be leaning on. I'm excited about it and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Over the last two seasons when Jackson has stepped into the starting lineup in place of an injured Marshawn Lynch he's performed admirably. In 2007 Jackson had 151 total yards of offense in a comeback win over Washington. Last season Jackson started the season finale in place of an injured Lynch and rolled up a career-high 136 yards on 27 carries against the Patriots.
"I have all the faith in the world from my teammates," said Jackson. "Having the faith from them and the coaching staff, that lets you know that they're ready and willing to give you the ball. You want to step up to the plate when they ask something of you like that, you want to be ready for it and you want to go out and prepare for it, and having confidence…playing at this level is all about having confidence. If you go out and you have confidence, you should be able to perform very well."
Jackson realizes that veteran Dominic Rhodes is now in the fold as well and has just as good a resume as his, if not better, in a complementary role. But to Jackson it's just competition.
"He's a competitor and I looked at it more as somebody to compete with," Jackson said. "He's a phenomenal athlete, you see some of the things he's done and some of the plays he makes, it makes you compete with him, and I looked at it as another player that's going to come in and help us. I'm excited about it."
And now with OTAs set to begin Monday, Jackson with new contract in hand is eager to get preparations for the 2009 season underway.
"I was just talking about it yesterday with Poz (Paul Posluszny), his locker is right across from mine, and he said, 'Before you know it, training camp will be here,'" said Jackson. "For OTAs to be starting now, it's kind of hitting us in the face. It's time to get ready for some football."