Can Fred Jackson be ready for Dolphins?

After watching prized draft choice C.J. Spiller befuddle the Indianapolis Colts' first-team defense Thursday night and undrafted rookie Joique Bell hold his own, the Buffalo Bills shouldn't be in a panic over Fred Jackson's broken hand.


Besides, Marshawn Lynch's sprained ankle should be better in time for the season opener. The Bills' backfield should be OK until Jackson is fully recovered.

That said, the Bills certainly would feel much better with Jackson in uniform.

He was Buffalo's top contributor last season, becoming the first NFL player to rush for 1,000 yards and amass 1,000 yards on kickoff returns. He gained 2,516 combined yards (rushing, receiving, returns), the fourth-highest total in league history.

I checked in with ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell about Jackson's outlook for the regular season. She was skeptical Jackson would be effective on opening day, but wouldn't rule it out.

On the first possession of the Bills' preseason opener Aug. 13, Jackson broke the fourth metacarpal on his left hand. That's the long bone that goes from the wrist to the lower knuckle of the ring finger. Thankfully for the Bills, he didn't require surgery to implant a pin.

The prognosis has Jackson returning in four to six weeks. Four weeks would be two days before the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bell's main concern for Jackson would be the requirement of extra protection on the hand even after four weeks. A splint or cast would make holding onto the ball more difficult. If Jackson chose to carry the ball in his right, then using his left to ward off defenders would be problematic.

"Many times a bone in the hand, you get pretty decent healing in four weeks," Bell said. "The standard for a fully healed fracture is six weeks. The question is whether you let him play in some kind of heavy splint or a cast. That would be the requirement at four weeks.

"Is it more important for him to be carrying the ball with his left hand or keeping his left hand from delivering a stiff arm?"

Perhaps the wise move would be to go with Spiller, Lynch and Bell until Jackson's completely healed.

"I would not be surprised if he was not available for a week or two," Bell said. "But if he's eager to get back and the Bills feel it can be adequately protected and he can perform, the door isn't closed on him playing either."