David Goldman/Associated Press
From 2005-2012, there weren't many running backs in the NFL more productive than Steven Jackson. Eight straight years Jackson topped the 1,000-yard mark while with the St. Louis Rams.
However, Jackson's first season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013 was an injury-filled mess. He looked every bit like a 30-year-old running back, and his 543 yards on the ground was the lowest total of Jackson's career.
Jackson himself admitted "buying his own hype" last year, according to Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
There were quite a few of the years in St. Louis when I shouldered a large burden, and I knew going into every season what I was going into. When I came here last year, I kind of believed my own hype. The team was so close to going to the Super Bowl, and I thought I was going to be the missing link. Then reality slaps you. It’s still a team sport.
This year I know I don’t have to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise. I’m not the missing piece, I’m just one piece. I feel comfortable knowing that I can still compete at a high level. But all of the unnecessary stress is gone.
With that said, head coach Mike Smith predicted a bounce-back season, telling Schultz, "We saw in the last couple of games the kind of running back Steven is before he got injured."
That jibes with the latest from the Falcons training camp, where ESPN's Vaughn McClure writes Jackson has looked "rejuvenated" in workouts.