Updates from Sunday, Sept. 7
The Falcons confirmed Steven Jackson is active for Week 1:
Falcons Inactives: QB Renfree, CB Arenas, LB Stupar, DT Peters, OT Schraeder, C Stone, LB Starr #NOvsATL— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) September 7, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, Sept. 2
Reid Ferrin of Falcons.com has the latest news on Jackson's status:
"I'm extremely excited for Week 1," Jackson said. "It's been a training camp that I missed the majority of the time, but I've been working hard physically and mentally to prepare for this coming Sunday; I feel good about it."
Jackson is the only active running back in the NFL to record at least 10,000 rushing yards and 3,500 receiving yards, just one of 10 players in NFL history to accomplish that feat; he's quick to credit Marty Lauzon, the Atlanta Falcons Director of Sports Medicine and Performance, and his staff for allowing him to get back on the field to add to those stats, helping his team.
"I think Marty and his training staff are the best in the NFL," Jackson said. "They've shown, time after time, not only with myself, but with the other guys here, that when we return to the field, we're able to play with the type of capabilities that we had before the injury."
Updates from Thursday, Aug. 28
The Falcons confirm a report from Jay Adams or AtlantaFalcons.com, who provided and update on Steven Jackson's status:
Updates from Monday, Aug. 25
Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com reported on Steven Jackson's return to practice:
RB Steven Jackson has returned to practice today. #ATLvsJAX— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) August 25, 2014
Vaughn McClure of ESPN reported more from Falcons practice:
Jackson had his helmet on as the team began individual drills. Coach Mike Smith said from the beginning that Jackson would be ready for the Sept. 7 opener against the New Orleans Saints.
Smith also didn't rule out the possibility of Jackson playing in the final exhibition game Thursday night at Jacksonville.
Mike Smith also updated Jackson's status for Week 1 (via the Falcons):
Coach Smith: We are well on schedule to have Steven Jackson ready to play Week 1. #RiseUp— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) August 25, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, Aug. 12
Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports the latest rehab drill Steven Jackson performed:
Speaking of running backs, starter Steven Jackson performed some agility drills on a side field for the first time since suffering a left hamstring injury on July 28. Jackson did not perform any sprinting exercises. Smith said all along he expects Jackson to be fully healthy for the Sept. 7 season opener against the New Orleans Saints. With Jackson still sidelined and Freeman exiting early Monday, Jacquizz Rodgers remained as the primary running back with Antone Smith also getting a few first-team reps.
Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson was held out of training camp practice Tuesday after suffering a left hamstring injury on Monday.
Will Carroll of Bleacher Report spoke about the injury:
Coach Mike Smith told reporters that Jackson should be back for the Falcons' regular-season opener, per their official Twitter feed:
Coach Smith: Steven Jackson injured his hamstring yesterday that kept him out of practice today. He'll be ready for the first game. #aftc14— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) July 29, 2014
Atlanta opens its regular-season slate Sept. 7 at home against the New Orleans Saints. Smith did not give an official diagnosis for Jackson's injury, nor did he give any firm updates regarding his status for the preseason. Based on the tone, however, it seems unlikely that the Falcons would risk putting the aging running back into a game that doesn't count.
Jackson, 31, missed four games and was hampered throughout the 2013 season with hamstring problems. It's worth noting that this latest injury is to his left hamstring; Jackson injured his right last season. The three-time Pro Bowler had career lows in yardage (543) and yards per carry (3.5) while scoring six touchdowns in his first season with the Falcons.
Jackson spent the first nine years of his career with the St. Louis Rams before hitting the free-agent market last spring. He is in the second year of a three-year, $12 million contract with the Falcons.
Expected to be the acquisition to put Atlanta into the Super Bowl conversation, Jackson was instead one of many Matt Ryan weapons riddled by injury. Top wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones also missed significant time and were not 100 percent throughout the season. The Falcons, who finished dead last in rushing yards, finished a miserable 4-12.
Jackson recently told Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he "believed [his] own hype" when he arrived in Atlanta. While the disappointing 2013 was far from ideal, he came into camp this year without carrying as much pressure.
“This year I know I don’t have to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise," Jackson said. "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.”
Even if the Falcons are publicly confident that Jackson can return to full health, it's fair to wonder if that confidence is founded. The curse of turning 30 is nothing new when discussing the career arc of a running back in the NFL. Chase Stuart of Football Perspective and others have done studies that prove age 30 isn't some magical number—careers naturally resemble a bell curve—and Jackson already had a laundry list of injuries before arriving in Atlanta.
In his decade-long NFL career, Jackson has played all 16 games just three times. With 2,553 carries on his NFL odometer, it's very possible that the Falcons will never see him at St. Louis-level production. As NFL Network's Jeff Darlington points out, Smith might want to use the preseason to look long and hard at his running back depth:
Without Jackson right now, it'll be on Jacquizz Rodgers & rookie RB Devonta Freeman to step up. Freeman has shown flashes during offseason.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) July 29, 2014
Jacquizz Rodgers has some productivity questions of his own. Devonta Freeman, while talented, is a rookie fourth-round pick. The Falcons would prefer using Jackson as their bell-cow back and using Rodgers and Freeman as change-of-pace players.
Tuesday's news is the latest sign that might not be possible.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.