Fred Jackson out for season

Updated: November 24, 2011, 3:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Fred Jackson will miss the rest of the year with a broken bone in his lower right leg, an injury that could derail Buffalo's once-promising season.

The team placed Jackson on injured reserve Wednesday, hours after Bills coach Chan Gailey said the running back wouldn't play Sunday in a pivotal game against the New York Jets.

"That's disappointing news for our team and certainly for Fred," Gailey said in a statement released by the team. "He was having a great year. The process for Fred to return to the field would most likely take him through the end of the season, so we have made the difficult decision to place him on injured reserve."

Jackson's best season was cut short after he was hurt in Sunday's blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins.

"It's tough because I feel like there's unfinished business," Jackson told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "I left a lot out on the field. There were a lot more plays for me to make. All I can do now is be a great teammate and leader by supporting the guys on my team."

Now, the Bills (5-5) will face the challenge of trying to erase an 11-year playoff drought without their most explosive offensive threat.

"If you've got a professional football team that's in the hunt and I've got to go give them some kind of talk to keep them motivated, we're in trouble," Gailey said. "My feeling is that if you've got a team that is that fragile, you're in trouble. I believe we have guys that understand about fighting through tough times and fighting through adversity."

Jackson's absence is a significant blow to a Bills team that has dropped three straight by a combined score of 106-26.

"It's tough not having Fred out there on the field," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "We know where his heart is, and where his mind's going to be ... with us."

Duplicating Jackson's production will be nearly impossible. Entering the Dolphins game he led the NFL in rushing, and his 1,376 yards from scrimmage through 10 games ranks behind only Chicago's Matt Forte (1,391).

"He's Mr. Everything," Bills receiver David Nelson said.

With Jackson out, the spotlight will be on his backup, second-year running back C.J. Spiller.

Spiller has not been the dynamic threat the Bills envisioned when they selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He's carried the ball just 21 times for 115 yards, and made 15 catches for a mere 82 yards this season.

"You're excited, but at the same time you're sad because one of our great players on this team is out," Spiller said. "I've got to step up."

Despite the insertion of Spiller, Gailey said he's not anticipating a big change in offensive philosophy.

"You've got 10 other guys that have been doing things, you can't change everything they've been doing, and you don't want to," Gailey said. "You want to let C.J. go in and do what he does best and give him an opportunity to make plays. He gets his chance now. He's probably looking forward to it and so are we."

But even with Jackson, the Bills have struggled during a three-game skid that has all but erased the memories of an electrifying 4-1 start. The offense averaged nearly 33 points in the first five games, but hasn't been close to that type of production since, scoring just 73 points over the last five.

The blame can be evenly passed around, from an offensive line that has failed to overcome some key injuries to Fitzpatrick's suddenly erratic throws. The slip-up has caught top receiver Steve Johnson off guard.

"Yeah, it has because when you could move the ball so easy and when you feel like everything's sharp, and the past few weeks it's like, 'How can we get a first down?' " said Johnson, who has been held to seven receptions over the past three games after compiling 39 catches in the first seven contests. "I can't say it hasn't shocked me, because it has."

Fitzpatrick also acknowledged the slide has come as a surprise.

"It's something that we're looking to stop," he said. "We're trying to figure out some answers, and looking to see some results this week. We're going to have to have some guys break some tackles, and we have to have some of those superhuman plays in order to get some big plays."

But the task will be daunting without Jackson, who ranks third in the league in rushing with 934 yards.

"Knowing Fred, he's the kind of guy that you can always count on," Fitzpatrick said. "But C.J.'s going to get some looks and we'll see what we have on Sunday."

Notes

To help offset the loss of Jackson, Buffalo signed running back Tashard Choice. He was released by Washington on Tuesday after starting the season with Dallas. ... Johnson (shoulder), Nelson (illness), receiver Naaman Roosevelt (shoulder) and starting safety George Wilson (neck) didn't practice Wednesday. ... Fitzpatrick has had little success in his career against the Jets. He's completed just 47.5 percent of his passes, and thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions in going 1-4 against them since 2008. ... After Andy Levitre struggled replacing the injured Eric Wood at center against the Dolphins, Kraig Urbik will be moved to center this week. Levitre will be back at his normal left guard position. ... The Bills and Jets have split the season series seven times since 2000. New York's win in the first meeting this year launched Buffalo's current three-game losing streak.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.