RENTON, Wash. – When the Buffalo Bills cut Thurman Thomas 14 years ago, he signed with the archrival Miami Dolphins out of spite.
Fred Jackson had a chance to do the contemporary equivalent by joining the New England Patriots.
The Patriots and Seattle Seahawks reached out to Jackson about an hour after the Bills released him last week. Each defending conference champ offered a sterling opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contender.
Jackson admitted the chance to play for New England was tempting. Three of his four kids start school Wednesday. His oldest, Braeden, is playing Little Loop football in Hamburg.
A one-hour flight to see his family more often and a chance to play the Bills twice a year were significant lures.
Jackson, however, decided to schlep across the continent.
The reasons came down to Seattle’s desire, a defined role and a chance to reunite with former Bills teammate Marshawn Lynch.
“What Seattle said was, ‘We want you to be a part of this team. We want you to contribute. We know what you can do, and we’re excited about it.’ They wanted to put me on a flight that night,” Jackson said while flying to Seattle with his wife and youngest daughter.
“New England wanted to wait a couple days. I wanted to go where I was wanted the most, and that was Seattle.”
New England can be a risky place for veterans, and especially running backs, to sign. Bill Belichick churns his roster and hasn’t committed to a backfield depth chart for years.
Jackson conceivably could have rushed for 100 yards in Week Four and gotten cut in Week Six. The Patriots signed future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne three weeks ago and cut him already.
“What played in the back of my mind is how much New England turns over its roster,” Jackson said. “That has worked well for them, and you can’t blame them. But, at the same time, you want to be comfortable where you are.
“Seattle told me they wanted me to come in and be the No. 2. At this stage of my career, that’s what you want to hear. So I go to a better team, get promoted and have a chance to win a Super Bowl.”
As for Lynch, Jackson is looking forward to a reunion he has been contemplating since the Bills nearly released him six months back. Jackson’s locker stall is three doors down from Lynch’s.
“Marshawn was a huge factor,” Jackson said. “We talk to each other three times a week.
“The chance to come out there was something we both wanted. We talked about it back in March when everything went down. We made it happen.