Steven Jackson: Excitement trumps nerves in return to playoffs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran running back Steven Jackson is preparing for his first playoff game since his rookie year with the St. Louis Rams in 2004, and this is how he sums up his emotions: “I’m not nervous. I’m excited, if anything.”

Jackson projects as the New England Patriots' top power running back entering Saturday’s divisional-round game against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. That’s been a quick U-turn for him, as he spent the year out of football before signing with the Patriots on Dec. 22.

“The last 2-3 weeks have been a whirlwind, but I think getting ready for this week and realizing the opportunity ahead of me is one I want to be well-prepared for and take advantage of ... I understood this is probably the last opportunity that I will have a significant chance of winning the Super Bowl; now we’re talking about why I decided to take [up] Coach on the offer,” he said.

“I know I don’t have the most playoff experience around here, but the game of football comes down to being able to execute, do your job, and being able to do that [starts] with a great week of preparation. I’ve always prided myself on that. The stakes are high, if you don’t win you go home, but at the end of the day you have to be able to play relaxed and loose, and that’s what I’m going in thinking Saturday.”

The Chiefs aren’t easy to run against. They held opponents to an average of 98.2 rushing yards per game in the regular season, the eighth-lowest total in the NFL. Opponents averaged 4.1 yards per carry, which ranked 16th in the league.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Jackson referred to the Chiefs as “opportunistic” and “ball-hawkers.”

As for himself in New England, things have been coming together quickly.

“At this point, I do feel comfortable with the language and the offense, and I trust that the coaching staff won’t put me in a position where they don’t think I can execute a job,” he said.