Steven Jackson is officially an Atlanta Falcon.
His addition to the defending NFC South Champions became official on Friday when he signed on the dotted line of a three-year contract with Atlanta. The contract signing was the culmination of a whirlwind first 24 hours for the newest Falcon. He flew into Atlanta late Thursday and spent time texting with quarterback Matt Ryan along the way.
On Friday, he met with coach Mike Smith and received his playbook, then attended lunch with Falcons owner Arthur Blank as he sought to make a good impression and start planting roots with his new football family.
After signing his contract, S-Jax made his way into the conference room for his first public appearance as an Atlanta Falcon and shared his excitement about the next step in his career at a press conference.
“I’m very excited about the journey ahead of me these next three seasons, especially what coach Smith and this staff have put together,” he said.
Though he has watched from afar for the last several seasons, Steven shared that he has carried the utmost respect for the Falcons organization and the way they’ve built a team to contend for a championship. As he enters his first season with the team, he has confidence in its continued success.
“I could go on and on about what you guys have done over the last five seasons,” SJ said. “I’ve admired from afar, and to be 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, to put an exclamation point to what I have accomplished so far in St. Louis.”
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
Upon opting out of his St. Louis contract and electing to become a free agent for the first time, Steven entertained the opportunity to join several teams, each offering its own opportunities at individual and team success. In the end, Steven explained, donning the black and red was obviously the right choice.
“The process was something that I took very seriously. I wanted to make sure I took my time with it,” he said. “We had a number of teams we were looking at for potential organizations I could go to, but if you just look at what this organization has done especially over the last five years—being the only NFC team to post winning seasons five years in a row—to have come so close – [in 2012], and the philosophy that Coach Smith brings. It just really made a lot of sense. It looked like a marriage that was just meant to happen.”
This fall, Steven will join the huddle with quarterback Matt Ryan and outstanding receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. In addition, superstar tight end Tony Gonzalez recently announced he would be returning to the Falcons for his 17th NFL season after briefly considering retirement. Steven couldn’t deny that Gonzalez’s decision to return helped lure SJ39 to Atlanta.
“It definitely made the decision a little easier knowing that Tony was coming back, to be able to play with a first ballot Hall of Famer,” SJ said. “To be able to be in the huddle with him and in the locker room with these guys, the best receiver corps in football, and with Matt Ryan leading the way, I’m very confident about the roster we have. I’m looking forward to the bonding experience we shall have.”
For perhaps the first time in his career, Steven will be buckling his chinstrap for a team with very real Super Bowl expectations. With high expectations comes a greater audience and a brighter spotlight for SJ’s stage. Ever humble and team-oriented, Steven still relishes the possibility of showing more fans what he’s all about.
“I think a lot of football fans will get to see me that weren’t St. Louis Rams fans,” he said. “It’s one thing to look at the stats line and see what I’ve compiled over the years, but to actually get to see me before a national audience, I think it would just be a little more eye opening at what I’ve been blessed to do.”
SURROUNDED BY TALENT
After years of being the go-to guy in St Louis and the very face of the Rams franchise, Steven is already adjusting to what will be a shared load in one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. And he’s excited to join a backfield that already includes one Oregon State product, Jaquizz Rodgers.
With two capable backs, an outstanding signal caller, two all-pro receiving threats and one of the greatest tight ends ever to play the game, the Falcons could possess the NFL’s most dynamic attack and SJ is thrilled to be a part.
“Earlier in my career I took pride in being the bell cow, the one guy that you can always depend on,” he said. “I’ve learned over the years that you do need some other guys on the team to be successful in this league. To just be another tool in the toolbox is quite all right with me.”
As a multi-purpose running back, eyeing a potential ninth straight 1,000-yard rushing season, Steven will never be just another tool in the toolbox. Still, SJ39 realizes that being around so much additional talent will only make him a better player and he’s looking forward to the opportunity to continue learning and growing in his 10th NFL season.
“I’m looking forward to sharpening my tools, learning from Tony, learning from those guys how to run routes,” he said. “I enjoy doing that part of the game, as well as protecting and working with the offensive line on blocking skills.”
One thing that will remain constant for No. 39 is his approach to the game. He’ll be facing teams and schemes he’s faced before and bring a wealth of experience into the huddle for the Falcons.
“Once you’re in the game it’s all about what defense I’m facing, what’s the offensive scheme and what do I need to do to execute,” he said. “Cameras are always watching, but more importantly it’s me executing my job.”
STILL GOING STRONG
As Steven continues into his 10th NFL season, he acknowledges the whispers that backs over the age of 30 slow down from the years of wear and tear.
But Steven wouldn’t have signed with the Falcons if he didn’t think he could compete at a high-level. So when he was asked about slowing down, S-Jax dropped a shoulder and dismissed the question like he was shedding a would-be tackler.
“The ball doesn’t get heavier as you carry it,” he said. “The carries and the yardage, with the way I train and keep up with myself, I don’t believe it’s going to have an effect at all. My three year commitment to this city and to this organization, I look on going strong the whole time I’m here.”
Fans can expect to see the same SJ39 they’ve watched for years. But will they see SJ wearing number 39? After all, safety Shann Schillinger currently possesses the jersey number. Steven said he plans to place a call to the young Falcon and work out a deal.
“Well I have some negotiations to go on,” Steven joked with the reporters. I understand someone has 39 here. Ending one negotiation just now, I’m looking forward to a phone call and starting another one.
ESTABLISHING THE RUN
When Steven’s number gets called, Falcons fans can expect his signature power to create memorable moments at the Georgia Dome.
But Steven knows it’s all about the teamwork and he’s looking forward to building a close relationship with two of the league’s top receivers. He noted that both players have an incredible work-ethic and are known for their extra effort even on plays they’re not directly involved in.
“Julio and Roddy both do really good jobs of blocking downfield and getting on the safeties,” he said. “Whenever a running back has a big run it has something to do with the receivers blocking downfield. Whenever you get guys that are very talented and are Pro Bowl guys, and have them selflessly want to do everything right, that’s when a team is better. That’s why the offense is so explosive because you have guys moving to block for one another, guys not worrying about stats but ultimately about winning a game.”
Steven believes that running the ball will go a long way toward that goal, and clearly the Falcons agree, as they made upgrading their backfield a priority this offseason, despite already possessing one of the league’s most successful passing offenses. SJ believes that more important than the yards it produces, a strong running game gives the offense balance.
“I believe the running back sets the tempo for the game,” he said. “He’s not only the intimidator, but sometimes you go out there and things are just not going right. You bring it out and things are flat. If you have an aggressive-type run, it ignites the sidelines and gets things back in focus. It’s like hitting the reset button sometimes. Whenever you have an intimidating back, a guy that’s a ground-and-pound, willing to set the tempo, it does a lot for a team overall.”
For years Steven has been considered one of the toughest, most intimidating rushers in the NFL. But does he consider himself intimidating?
“Well I have a nice smile so I don’t think I’m that intimidating,” Steven quipped, already getting comfortable with the Atlanta press.
For Steven, there is perhaps a sense of comfort in signing with the Falcons. It may be a new home and a new offense, but SJ39 will now be part of a team primed for greatness. Now officially a Falcon, Steven knows it’s all about winning the marathon.
“I’ve been blessed to be going into my tenth season. I’ve accomplished a lot. The one that I can’t say when I write on my vision board, I’ve written “NFL Champion” since I was a ten year old boy. I’ve always wanted to hold up and hoist a Lombardi trophy. I’ve come to realize that, unlike a lot of other sports, you need a very supportive group around you, and people that are willing to have the same goals in mind. I believe that’s what this team presents for me.”
- Playoffs part of Jackson’s decision on Atlanta (AtlantaFalcons.com, March 15, 2013)
- New Falcon Jackson Hopes to Travel to the Super Bowl (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 15, 2013)
- Steven Jackson Flirted With Retiring (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 15, 2013)
- Jackson move shows Falcons’ aggressive posture (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 14, 2013)
- Jackson looking forward to working with Rodgers (AtlantaFalcons.com, March 18, 2013)
- Steven Jackson By the Numbers (ESPN.com, March 15, 2013)
- Steven Jackson Is All Class (Falcoholic, March 18, 2013)
- Jackson stayed strong through Chaos (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 17, 2013)
- Steven Jackson Atlanta Falcons Intro Press Conference (AtlantaFalcons.com, March 15, 2013)
- Ready to Make Atlanta Home (AtlantaFalcons.com, March 15, 2013)