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Monday, September 24, 2012
Fred Jackson closer to return

Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Fred Jackson to the rescue?

The Buffalo Bills running back wasn't counting himself out on Monday, a day after C.J. Spiller went down with a left shoulder injury that's expected to keep him out for at least a week.

Calling himself ahead of schedule in returning from a sprained right knee, Jackson gave himself a "70-75 percent chance" of playing on Sunday, when the Bills (2-1) host New England (1-2).

"My mindset is to go. I'm playing. That is how I'm approaching it," Jackson said. "I think I've got a really good shot. I like my chances."

Jackson was initially expected to miss about a month after he was hurt in a season-opening 48-28 loss at the Jets two weeks ago. After spending last week working out on his own along the sideline, Jackson will get his first test in a team setting Wednesday, when the Bills return to practice.

"My goal is to get out there and do as much as possible," Jackson said. "I want to go out there and go full-go and see how my knee holds up and what happens."

Jackson's return has the potential of providing a big boost to an offense that was suddenly facing the possibility of playing the Patriots without its two top rushers. Spiller was hurt after landing hard on his shoulder while being tackled in the first quarter of a 24-14 win at Cleveland on Sunday.

Coach Chan Gailey said tests taken on Monday showed the injury to Spiller wasn't as bad as initially feared. Gailey wasn't prepared to entirely rule out Spiller from playing against New England, but acknowledged the player has a better shot at playing the following weekend at San Francisco.

As for Jackson, Gailey was impressed by the progress the running back showed during an individual workout earlier in the day.

"I'm very optimistic," Gailey said of Jackson's chances to play.

Jackson said he still feels some pain in his knee, but described it as being tolerable. He also added that he'll have to play with a custom-made brace.

Jackson's objective has always been to return to play against the Patriots, and the injury to Spiller provided him an added sense of urgency.

"You lose a guy like that, it definitely adds to wanting to get back out there and helping your team," he said. "But from that standpoint, I always wanted to be back versus New England just because it is New England and it's a tough game for us."

The Patriots have been a Bills thorn for much of this past decade. New England had won 20 of 21 meetings and 15 straight against Buffalo before a 34-31 loss here last season.

The running attack has provided the Bills an identity three games into the season.

Spiller entered the game against Cleveland leading the NFL in both yards rushing (292) and yards from scrimmage (364). The 2010 first-round draft pick is off to such a hot start that his 10.1 yards per carry is the highest total two games into a season -- and with a minimum 25 carries -- since Jim Brown averaged 11.3 yards in 1963.

Third-stringer Tashard Choice took over following Spiller's injury and finished with 91 yards on 20 carries. The Bills currently rank third in the NFL with 534 yards rushing, and are second in averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

Buffalo's passing attack has already been thinned after receiver David Nelson was placed on season-ending injured reserve after tearing a ligament in his right knee in the season opener.

"That would be great news for us," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said, of the possibility of Jackson playing. "We know Fred and the competitor he is. If they allow him to go, you know he's going to.

"That would be a big boost for us to get him out here."

Jackson was the Bills' workhorse last season before landing on season-ending injured reserve after breaking a bone in his right leg in November. Despite missing the final six games, his combined 1,376 yards of offense still represented nearly a quarter of team's production.