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Steven Jackson's body is 22, Atlanta Falcons coach says

When Steven Jackson reached free agency for the first time in his career this offseason, teams told his agent they were hesitant to invest in a 30-year-old running back.

"That's a hard thing, accepting and acknowledging that," Jackson told Pete Prisco of "I want to take great pride in changing that thinking."

Acknowledging that aging NFL stars must "continue to evolve" or be "left behind," Jackson points to recently inducted Hall of Famer Curtis Martin as his role model. Martin was 31 years old when he won the NFL rushing crown with 1,697 yards in 2004.

As Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith told USA Today Sports' Jarrett Bell, Jackson is "almost 30, but in a 22-year-old's body."

Always in phenomenal shape thanks to a more scientific approach to fitness, Jackson should be well prepared for an increased role in the Falcons' pass-centric offense. Matt Ryan is quick to point out that his new backfield weapon is "the size of Julio Jones" with soft hands for a running back.

"The offense starts with Matt," Jackson told Prisco. "I will get the bulk of my carries in the second half. In the first half, I would imagine the majority of my touches will be receiving the ball. I can focus on my becoming the back everyone saw early in my career."

That plan should be music to the ears of Falcons fans who watched the coaching staff lose faith in a burned-out Michael Turner in short-yardage and clock-killing situations during the past two postseasons. If the Falcons had Jackson to salt away their 24-14 halftime lead against the San Francisco 49ers in January, they might have hoisted their first Lombardi Trophy two weeks later.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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