BY DAN BEGNOCHE
Whether it's Barry Sanders or Walter Payton, every running back loses a step or two as they breach their 30th birthday.
Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has been preparing accordingly.
The 33-year-old veteran doesn't deny his lack of breakaway speed in this, his eighth year in the league. He's suffered through a season-ending leg fracture, among other less serious injuries, that have at times kept him off the field and in the training room.
As Chris Brown of buffalobills.com recently pointed out, however, the power tailback has actually gained muscle mass as he's aged, packing on the pounds to handle the increase in hits he's likely to encounter.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a physical running back, and I have to be now more than ever," he said. "That was just one of the ways I figured out I’d be able to last a little bit longer on the field. It worked out for me last year and hopefully it’ll keep me going in the league as long as possible.”
Jackson ranked in the top 10 among running backs when it came to yards after contact last season, averaging 2.6 yards per attempt, according to ProFootballFocus. He gained 528 yards total on the ground after being hit in 2013, which was 60 percent of his total rushing yards on the year. He also broke 31 tackles, only one less than his counterpart C.J. Spiller.
While Jackson told Brown that his age is "just a number," he's cognizant of the fact that having a dual threat like Spiller is helping to ease the burden and keep his legs fresh for a full 16 games.
"That definitely gives me the opportunity to be out here three or four more years and competing with these guys and getting this thing turned around," he said. "That’s the No. 1 goal, getting this thing turned around and giving this city something to be excited about and that’s what I want to do before I’m out of here."
Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily