Fred Jackson watches the playoffs every year, and every year he dreams of what it would be like to be in them.
The Buffalo Bills are 49-78 since Jackson arrived as an undrafted free agent, and he has never seen more than a seven-win season. Buffalo is 6-9 this season.
“That’s always the toughest part,” Jackson said in a phone interview Friday. “We’re all tremendous competitors, and when you’re competing, you want to win. When you’re not winning, it’s tough to deal with. Guys are showing up. We’re still fighting. We’re trying to get this thing turned around. We’ve got a two-game winning streak right now, and hopefully we can build on that.”
The Arlington Lamar product has been one of the Bills’ best players this season, a team MVP candidate. He leads them in rushing with 836 yards and eight touchdowns on 193 carries and has added 44 catches for 334 yards and a touchdown.
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Jackson played through broken ribs last week against Miami for his first 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown.
He will play all 16 games for the first time since 2010.
“Numbers-wise, I’m not doing anything that’s going to blow your mind, but I think I’ve been out there and been a part of what we’re trying to get done this year,” Jackson said. “I think the biggest thing I’m most proud of is I’m not 100 percent, but I’ve been healthy enough and able to play all 16 games this year. That was my No. 1 goal. I felt like if I could do that, I could contribute on the field. That’s what I’m most proud of. I’ve been able to make some plays, score some touchdowns this season. To do that, you have to be on the field.”
Jackson needs 164 yards against the New England Patriots’ 29th-ranked run defense to reach 1,000 yards. He had 1,062 yards in 2009 for his only 1,000-yard season.
“It is a goal,” Jackson said. “That’s a goal going in. It’s going to be tough. New England is not just going to hand me anything. I’ve got to go out there and work for it. But I think if I can go out there and rush for 160 yards that gives us a good chance to win the game.”
Jackson went over the 5,000-yard mark for his career last week, only the third rusher in team history to hit that mark. He joins Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas on that list.
Hangartner wants ring
Geoff Hangartner concedes this might be his last season. The Carolina Panthers offensive lineman would like nothing better than to ride off into the sunset with a Super Bowl title.
“I think it would be awesome,” Hangartner said Friday in a phone interview. “Quarterbacks are graded on that. I don’t think offensive linemen are. But it would be quite a thrill going out winning a Super Bowl.”
The former Texas A&M standout has made it nine NFL seasons, playing 117 games with 85 starts. Hangartner, 31, had resigned himself that it might be over after the Panthers cut him during training camp.
He was unemployed, living in Austin, working out and going to Aggies games when Carolina signed him Nov. 5 to a third stint with the team after injuries at the guard position.
“I had no idea that I would have played this long,” Hangartner said. “If you would have asked me when I got drafted how long I would play, I would have told you I hoped to make it on the team that first year. So nine years later, I feel pretty good about where my career has gone.”
Hangartner, a fifth-round pick of Carolina in 2005, has been on two playoff teams. The Panthers made it to the NFC Championship Game his rookie season, with Hangartner believing that would be the first of many chances for a Super Bowl ring.
But he has not been back to the playoffs since 2008 and hasn’t won a playoff game since that 2005 season.
“I didn’t know any better,” Hangartner said. “I was a stupid rookie. They had just gone to the Super Bowl two years earlier, and we went to the NFC Championship Game, I just kind of figured my whole career, about every year you’d make it to the Super Bowl or pretty close. I had no idea how special it was and how hard it is to get to the playoffs and have success in the playoffs.”
Hangartner’s role is different this time around. He is a leader in the offensive line room, the veteran, though he has started only two games.
“I’ve actually really enjoyed it,” Hangartner said. “It’s definitely different, because I’ve started for a long time. But I’m enjoying watching some of the young guys play and just trying to be a sounding board for them when they need somebody they can ask a question. I’ve enjoyed having that role this year.”