Bills running back Fred Jackson said being ready for the New England game this week was always the goal after sustaining a sprained LCL in Week 1. Though a Week 5 return was more realistic, Jackson has apparently bucked the odds and labeled himself probable for Sunday's huge division tilt with the Patriots Sunday.
"From my point of view I'm giving myself a 70 to 75 percent chance to play," said Jackson. "It's a game we need to play well and I need to be out there I think to play. I think that I'll have that opportunity to get out there and if I keep working and those guys continue to keep doing the tremendous job they're doing then I'll get out there."
Head coach Chan Gailey echoed Jackson's assessment of his odds to play on Sunday against their division nemesis.
"Well from the workout and the rehab this morning it went extremely well," said Gailey Monday afternoon. "It looks like he's going to practice Wednesday and we'll see how he feels through the course of the week. I'm very optimistic."
If Jackson is able to return it would serve as perfect timing for the Bills after the back that replaced him in the lineup went down with a shoulder injury this past Sunday in the win over Cleveland. C.J. Spiller was injured in the first half of the game against the Browns when Usama Young landed with his full body weight on Spiller's left shoulder as he hit the turf.
Fortunately for the Bills Spiller's injury doesn't look to be of the long term variety. In fact Gailey isn't ready to declare him out for this Sunday's game.
"Maybe not as bad as originally thought and I'm not going to completely rule him out this week, but I think it's more of a chance that he won't than he will," he said.
Jackson didn't deny that with Spiller down he feels more compelled to be on the field Sunday for such a critical division game after the opening week loss to the Jets on the road.
"I always wanted to be back to play against New England," Jackson said. "I said that before, but you lose a guy like that and it adds to wanting to get back out there to help your team. From that standpoint I always wanted to be back because it is New England and it's a tough game for us."
Having Jackson on the field naturally would enhance the team's options on offense, but Ryan Fitzpatrick believes Jackson's impact goes further than that.
"That'd be great news for us," said Fitzpatrick. "We know Fred and the competitor he is and if they allow him to go you know he's going to. I'm not sure what the trainers are saying, what anybody is saying, and I'm sure that's between him and them and coach, but it'd be a big boost to get him out there."
Jackson was quick to credit the Bills athletic training staff for the regimen they've provided him, feeling it's enhanced his recovery. Last week Jackson was already doing change of direction drills on his own. He says the pain is "tolerable" and if he does play will probably wear a brace on the knee.
"I found one, we had to get something custom made," he said. "Of course I'm not going to be comfortable with it 100 percent, but you've got to do what you've got to do to go out and play."
Even though the Bills have a 1-7 record in the eight games in which Jackson has participated against the Patriots, the back has had individual success against New England. In those eight career games Jackson has 93 carries for 465 yards good for a five yards per carry average. Ten of those carries have gone for 10 yards or more.
Jackson is not a lock, but with the direction he feels he's headed and the magnitude of the game one would be foolish to bet against him.
"I think with the work that our training staff is doing with the preparation to try to get me out there, and the focus to get back out there I think I've got a really good shot," he said. "I like my chances. So hopefully all goes well on Wednesday and Thursday and things are good for me."