Steven Jackson began his 12th NFL season Sunday, but the 32-year-old running back still feels butterflies.
Jackson, who signed with the New England Patriots last week, hadn’t carried the football in an NFL game for more than a year. His first touch of the 2015 season came with 14:05 left in the second quarter, when the Patriots were facing second-and-4. He ran for 5 yards and picked up the first down for his new team.
“Before that snap, I even told myself to calm down,” Jackson said. “I was whispering to myself, ‘Just calm down, be patient.’ I was able to rip off 5 yards. It felt good, just following the lead blocker through the hole.”
Jackson said it’s not uncommon for him to feel nervous before games.
“You feel that way all the time,” Jackson said. “You always get butterflies. Any competitor that I know, you have to make sure you’re playing within yourself, and a team like this, all I have to make sure is that I’m just playing football to the best of my ability.”
Jackson carried the ball seven times for 15 yards. His longest run of the game came with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter, when he ran for 7 yards on first-and-10.
“The body feels good,” Jackson said. “Getting used to getting hit again, that was the main thing, make sure I’m running through the tackles, getting my shoulder pads down and being in football position, which I haven’t been in a while. It felt good. Now it’s just to build off what I have done (Sunday).”
The Patriots picked up just 63 yards on 22 carries. Brandon Bolden led the team with nine carries for 30 yards, but the Patriots might need Jackson to build a consistent ground game for the postseason. The Patriots have struggled to run the ball all season, and those issues have been compounded since Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount suffered season-ending injuries.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was impressed with what he saw from his new running back.
“I thought he ran hard,” Belichick said in a conference call Monday. “It wasn’t a whole lot of opportunities, but the ones he got, I thought he ran hard. There weren’t really any issues. We’ll try to build on that this week. I’m glad he got a few carries, got some contact, got back on the football field. We’ll build on that, see where that takes us this week. It’s a start, we’re underway. We’ll just take it from here.”
Thumbnail photo via Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports Images
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