Coming off a fractured fibula that cost him the last six games of what was shaping up to be an NFL MVP caliber season in 2011, Fred Jackson was determined to come back with a vengeance in 2012. That highly anticipated return to action last all of six carries this past season. After suffering a sprained LCL in his right knee on the sixth carry of the season in Week 1 against the Jets, Jackson was never 100 percent healthy the rest of the year.
"Eighty percent is a good number," Jackson told Buffalobills.com. "That was probably the best I felt all year was 80 percent healthy."
After watching the way Buffalo's Week 1 opener went against the Jets after he exited the game, Jackson was compelled to come back from his LCL injury sooner rather than later. The injury carried a loose four to eight week prognosis, but Jackson was back in three weeks.
The Bills offensive co-captain was far from fully healthy, but felt compelled to play in the team's big Week 4 tilt against the division rival Patriots.
"Anytime as a captain you see your team struggling you want to get out there and give them an emotional boost," said Jackson. "That definitely had a lot to do with me trying to get back heading into the New England game. It was something where I had to get back out there and give us a spark and get things turned around in the division. I wasn't 100 percent and knew that going into it, but something needed to be done."
Buffalo looked to be on their way to their second straight home win against New England with a 21-7 first half lead, but it evaporated in the second half. Jackson battled his way through the next six weeks despite a balky right knee that limited his elusiveness and burst.
"Yeah you have to go out there and play off emotion," he said. "Just like I needed to be a spark for them I had my teammates telling me they liked to see me back out there. Feeding off of that and playing off of that helped me get through it."
He had a pair of solid efforts against Tennessee (120 scrimmage yards, 1 TD) and New England (115 scrimmage yards, 2 TDs), but sustained a concussion late in the road loss to the Patriots, which forced him to miss the Miami game in Week 11.
Jackson returned to play in the next three games, but sustained an injury to the same right knee against the Rams and was lost for the last three games of the year. The veteran running back still needs another month of rehab before the knee is right again and he can begin his offseason training regimen.
Appearing in just 10 games, Jackson posted the lowest single-season yards per carry average in his career (3.8). It was the first time Jackson's average dipped under 4.2 in his career.
"Getting hurt early this season just kind of set the tone for the year for me. It was just stupid," Jackson told Buffalobills.com. "Without a doubt it was the hardest year I've ever been through."
On the wrong side of 30, coming off a pair of seasons in which he appeared in just 10 games due to injury and posted his lowest career yards per carry average, Jackson realizes the doubters will be more plentiful this offseason. Buffalo's veteran back welcomes the naysayers.
"I love that. I know it's going to be said and that's one of the biggest things that fuels me," he said. "I know it's going to be said that this guy is 32-years old when he comes into the season next year. Look at the season he had last year. Injury prone will probably be another label and that'll just be fuel for the fire. I love it, it's what I'm accustomed to now."