Buffalo Bills: Has Fred Ex delivered for the last time?

Fed still has a bit left in the tank! - Photo via AP

Even at 33 Fred still has a bit left in the tank! – Photo via AP

The Buffalo Bills have been the talk of the NFL since 2015 began. Last week the Bills made a trade for LeSean McCoy, quite possibly the best running back in the NFL. Then they gave him a contract to pay him as such. That leaves three running backs on the roster fighting for two available positions. The Bills reportedly are high on Bryce Brown, and Boobie Dixon played for new offensive coordinator Greg Roman in San Francisco. That leaves one very important name seemingly out of the mix, our beloved Fred Jackson. A new report from the weekend also linked the Bills to ex-Jets RB Bilal Powell; that would make five running backs. Fred turned 34 in February and was already the oldest active running back in the NFL last year. Another year older and now with a stable of younger guys behind him, I think the writing may be on the wall.

Fred Jackson has been one of the only beacons of light over the last seven years for Bills fans. Fred Jackson embodies everything Buffalo stands for. Nothing was handed to Fred; he worked hard for everything he achieved. Coming from Coe College, a small Division III school, Jackson went undrafted in 2003. He tried out for several teams, but no one signed him. In 2004-2005 he played for the Sioux City Bandits, an indoor football league team. He was earning just a few hundred dollars a week, but he was keeping his dream of playing alive. He was the co-MVP of the league in 2005 gaining 1,700 yards in 18 games. He worked full time as a youth counselor as well to make ends meet. In 2006 he went to NFL Europa and played for the Rhine Fire where he led the team in rushing. The Bills hired a familiar face as GM in 2006: a guy named Marv Levy. Levy also went to Coe College and was told of a great character guy who was also really good at football and needed a job. It was the break Jackson was hoping for.

The old pro had a hunch about his fellow Coe College Alum - Photo via www.nfl.com

The old pro had a hunch about his fellow Coe College Alum – Photo via http://www.nfl.com

Levy invited Jackson to training camp in 2006. Jackson was a practice squad player until 2007 when he played in eight games, getting the start once. Fred became a full-time staple of the Bills backfield in 2008, and despite the Bills best efforts to replace him (drafting Marshawn Lynch, CJ Spiller), Fred continued to be the lead back. He’s been the captain of the Bills for a few years now. That distinction is bestowed by the players as they elect captains by a vote. Wearing the “C” shows there is obviously a huge amount of respect for this man in that locker room. He’s won the Bills’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award twice for his work off the field as well. Though Fred is 34 years old, he’s only played in the NFL for nine years. His long road to success has allowed him to play well past the average age running backs tend to be put out to pasture. He might not be as fast but his production is still there. He still gains positive yards when it looks like he’ll be stopped for a loss. He still makes plays like the play against the Bears last season when he stiff-armed the Bears DB for 20 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown. Cutting Jackson would be like cutting Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant or Peyton to Bills fans. He has one more year left on his deal and should be allowed the opportunity to play out his entire career as a Buffalo Bill. If the Bills do cut him, will anyone pick him up?  Could that force retirement?

It's a difficult spot for all of us, cause my son and I love Freddy!

It’s a difficult spot for all of us, cause my son and I love Freddy!

For me personally, seeing him cut would be painful. I haven’t bought a Bills Jersey since the 90’s. Anyone worth rooting for seemed to come and go every two to three years since. Fred Jackson became the first player’s jersey I purchased when he earned the starting running back job in 2008. I remember watching Jackson in the pre-season in 2006 and 2007, and you could tell he was special. He always fell forward, his stiff arm was impressive, and he ran angry. He normally won the contact battle, and I would say out loud “wow, why isn’t this guy a starter?” I bought my two-year-old a Fred Jackson jersey last year. I played in an Alumni Football game for my high school this past summer and wore 22. My kid thought it was the coolest thing that we both wore the same number. When the Bills games are on, he’s very upset when he doesn’t see Fred Jackson on the field. He’ll say “Dad, I don’t see number 22; Where’s Jackson?” He knows Sundays in the fall are Football Sundays, and the first thing he does when he wakes up is grab his Fred Jackson jersey to wear.

We all know football players can’t play forever. We’ve seen all the Bills Hall of Famers in the 90’s released to go on and play elsewhere. Though the Bills seem to be starting an impressive new era, the thought of Fred not coming along for the ride when things turn around is sad. The Pegula’s have done great things in Buffalo, and I’m sure they know how important of a player he is to fans and the type of leader he is to the guys in the locker room. Let him play out the last year of his contract and retire a Bill. It’s the least we can do for a guy that’s given us something to cheer about while watching some of the worst teams in Bills history!

By: Jason Sins.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Buffalo Bills: Should ownership get involved on fans behalf? | What's Going On In Buffalo? Find Out! - March 12, 2015

    […] I was writing the piece on Fred Jackson’s possible release yesterday (check it out here), I was reminded of the darkest days in Buffalo sports history. The year was 2000, and we were […]

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