ATLANTA — Steven Jackson has wanted to hold up the Lombardi Trophy since he was 10 years old.
Now that he’s signed with the Atlanta Falcons, the three-time Pro Bowl running back believes he’s one step closer to his goal.
“I have a never-say-die attitude,” Jackson said on Friday. “That is something that I plan on bringing to this team. They don’t need much. They’re already a good team even if don’t join this organization.”
The Falcons had been looking for a starting running back since they released Michael Turner two weeks ago. Owner Arthur Blank was keen enough to sign Jackson that he sent his private jet on Thursday to pick up Jackson at the NFLPA meetings in the Bahamas.
“It actually happened around 4 p.m.” on Thursday, Jackson said. “My agent called me and said there was an offer on the table. We discussed the details of it, and I said, ‘Let’s give this thing one last hurrah.’ ”
Like Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, Jackson considered retiring after the season, but decided that he’s still too productive to pass up a chance to win the Super Bowl.
Among active players, Jackson leads the NFL with 10,135 yards rushing, but he hasn’t been to the playoffs since his rookie year of 2004 with the St. Louis Rams.
Joining an Atlanta team that fell 10 yards shy of winning the NFC championship, Jackson says he and the Falcons “looked like a marriage that was meant to happen.”
The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots were potential suitors, too, but Jackson had made up his mind that he wanted to sign with the Falcons if the terms were acceptable.
He had already opted out of the final year of his contract with St. Louis – a $7 million salary – to become an unrestricted free agent. After playing nine years for the Rams and never finishing the season with a winning record, Jackson was ready to move on.
“We had some options out there and for whatever reason they didn’t make sense,” Jackson said. “But the one I really wanted to happen happened.
Jackson joins an offense that’s loaded with playmakers.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off his second Pro Bowl season. Gonzalez is the NFL’s No. 2 career-leading receiver. Roddy White last year became just the fifth NFL player with three consecutive seasons to record three consecutive seasons with 90 catches and 1,200 yards receiving.
And second-year receiver Julio Jones is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance.
“I’ve admired this team from afar,” Jackson said. “At this point in my career, where winning is most important, I believe this will be a great chance for me to finish out my career with an opportunity to do some special things.”
The Falcons’ offense, however, struggled at times in short-yardage situations last season as Turner’s productivity declined.
In the playoff win over Seattle and the NFC championship loss to San Francisco, the offense failed in the second half to hold a lead at the Georgia Dome because it couldn’t run for a first down and control the clock.
Jackson hopes that will no longer be the situation.
“I believe the running back sets the tempo for the game,” he said. “He goes out there and is not only an intimidator, but sometimes things aren’t going right. You’re three-and-out and things are flat, but if you have an aggressive, intimidating run, that ignites the sidelines. It gets things back in focus. It’s like hitting the reset button sometimes.”
Jackson spoke on the telephone with coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, both of whom were out of the town scouting pro workouts on college campuses. He also received call from White, a longtime friend, and exchanged text messages with Ryan.
“Earlier in my career, I took great pride in being the bell cow – the one guy – that you could always depend on,” Jackson said. “I’ve learned over the years that you do need extra guys on the team to be successful in this league. To be just another tool in the toolbox is quite all right with me.”