Though, in that time, the 29-year-old running back considered an alternative: following in the footsteps one of his idols and former greats.
“I was thinking about maybe retiring,” Jackson admitted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . “I really considered that. … I really contemplated ‘do I continue to play football’ or ‘do I retire.’ That’s one thing I admire about Barry Sanders.”
On March 7, Jackson left the Rams, the only team he’d known in his professional career. While he flirted with joining the Packers, S-Jax eventually landed in Atlanta — quite literally, on owner Arthur Blank’s private plane — on a three-year, $12 million, with $4 million guaranteed.
He knows he made the right decision.
“The philosophy and what coach (Mike) Smith brings, it just really made a lot of sense,” Jackson said. “It looked like a marriage that was meant to happen.”
Jackson, the Rams’ all-time leading rusher, signed on with the Falcons, a perennial contender, in hopes of reaching his first Super Bowl. And playing next to some guy named Tony Gonzalez doesn’t hurt, either.
“To be able to play with a first-ballot Hall of Famer (is great),” Jackson said. “He knows how close (the Falcons) are to going to the ultimate game and winning the Lombardi Trophy.”
While Jackson has a fair amount of wear on his wheels — 2,395 career carries — he insists there’s still enough left in the tank to contribute.
“Early in my career, I took great pride in being in the bell cow, the one guy that you could always depend on,” Jackson said. “I’ve learned that over the years you did need some extra guys on your team to be successful in this league. To be another tool in the tool box is quite all right with me.”
(Photo credit: AtlantaFalcons.com)