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Bills reward RB Jackson with 2-year extension

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Wiping his face with a towel, Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson apologized for sweating under the hot, bright camera lights at a news conference to announce his contract extension on Monday.

Jackson had better become accustomed to the limelight because he should no longer feel under-appreciated in Buffalo after signing a two-year contract potentially worth $9 million.

"It's a big day," Jackson said. "I'm happy to be here and I'm glad that this is over with and now we can focus on playing football."

For Jackson, the extension is a reward after he's led the team in rushing in each of the past three seasons. And it also eases any lingering hard feelings Jackson might have had toward the Bills after expressing concerns last year that he was underpaid under his previous four-year, $7.5 million contract.

"This is a day to put that to rest," Jackson said. "We don't have to worry about that anymore."

Jackson has one year left under his current deal, and the extension secures him through 2014.

Jackson revealed the length of the new contract. A person familiar with the deal disclosed the monetary terms, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Bills had not disclosed the value of the extension.

General manager Buddy Nix lived up to the public promise he made in the media and personally to Jackson that an extension would be reached before the start of training camp.

"We've always said we want to try to keep our good players, and we've done it again today," Nix said. "He was a huge piece of the puzzle for us."

In five seasons, the former undrafted free agent out of Division III Coe College has 3,794 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns in 66 games, including 38 starts in Buffalo. And that includes last year when he was being mentioned as an early-season NFL MVP candidate in helping the Bills get off to a surprising 5-2 start.

That was before Jackson's season ended in mid-November, when he broke a bone in his right leg in a 35-8 loss at Miami. He still finished with six touchdowns and a team-best 934 yards rushing while averaging 5.5 yards a carry.

Jackson has also proved to be dual threat in the passing game, with 175 catches for 1,535 yards and four touchdowns.

He's the latest member of the Bills self-dubbed "No-Name" offense to be retained by the team after quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, in October, and receiver Stevie Johnson, in March, signed contract extensions. And his new deal comes during a busy offseason in which the Bills signed free-agent defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract in March.

The moves have inspired a bona fide belief among the Bills that they have a chance to be competitors next season in a bid to end a 12-year playoff drought.

"I'm excited to sign the extension to stay here because I feel like something special is about to go down, and I want to be part of it," Jackson said.

Fitzpatrick was so excited by the latest move, he showed up at the news conference wearing a T-shirt featuring Jackson and the slogan the running back has earned in Buffalo: "Fred-Ex Delivers."

"For him to be locked up here for years to come is awesome," Fitzpatrick said. "He obviously means a lot to our team, he means a lot to the city of Buffalo and the fans."

Jackson's past has been an inspiration to his teammates, and a reason why he's regarded as one of the Bills' unquestioned leaders.

Undrafted coming out of college, Jackson spent two years at the arena football league level, where he was a star for Sioux City of the U.S. Indoor Football League before catching the Bills attention.

He spent the 2006 season on Buffalo's practice squad before making the active roster the following year. Jackson got his chance to shine during the 2009 season when an injury sidelined starter Marshawn Lynch.

Though at 31, Jackson is regarded as old by NFL running back standards, he's comparatively fresh because of his late start.

And a new contract isn't going to change his mindset, especially considering he's coming off an injury.

"I'm here to prove to myself that this is where I belong," said Jackson, who has been cleared for practice. "It'll be another challenge, and I love challenges, so I look forward to getting out there and continuing to play well."

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