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Inside story of how Steven Jackson was given No. 39 with Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran running back Steven Jackson wore No. 39 throughout his NFL career, but after officially signing with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, there was a logistical issue to address as practice squad running back Montee Ball had that number.

In typical Bill Belichick fashion, it was handled swiftly.

“The funny thing about it, I just came in today and realized I was 31," Ball relayed.

Not that it would have been an issue had Jackson approached him about it.

"Even if he would have asked for 39, I would have given it to him because I have so much respect for that man," said Ball, who grew up in Wentzville, Missouri. "I was talking to him today and telling him that when I was little, he was the first person I ever got an autograph from. I’m from right outside St. Louis and he was with the Rams. I went to one of the Rams camps when I was young -- 11, 12 years old, 13 -- and he was there. It’s funny how everything comes full circle.

"All my extended family were St. Louis fans, so I’ve seen a lot of Jackson jerseys around my house. Ii’s crazy now that we’re on the same team, in he same running back room. It’s a blessing.”

Ball, 25, was impressed when he first saw the 32-year-old Jackson on Wednesday.

"When he walked in the door, I was like 'Wow, that’s a big running back.’ He looks like a d-end playing running back," he said. "Tip of the hat to him, man, to keep pushing through and battling and staying with it.”

As for Ball, who was signed to the Patriots' practice squad last Tuesday, he reported that his first week with the team was solid.

“It went well," he said. "Obviously, it’s a new playbook and I jumped in there quick. Like I said, I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do. I’m most definitely attacking the playbook for whenever my number is called, and I’m going to produce. But for right now, it’s be the ‘show’ team for the defense and that’s what I’m taking pride in.”