PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Coach Chan Gailey can do the math rather easily: The Buffalo Bills have two capable running backs, and only one football to go around.
And that's why he's already cautioned both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to limit their expectations regarding playing time and production because he intends for both to share the load.
"I said this way back: 'Everybody that is supposed to touch the ball won't be happy, because nobody's going to get it as much as they would like,'" Gailey said. "It's a little bit of a problem to make sure those guys touch it as much as they need to. But it's a good problem to have."
Jackson can sympathize with Gailey's dilemma.
"I'm glad I don't have to make that decision," Jackson said, regarding playing time. "So long as we're winning football games, we'll be all right."
Spiller's on board, too.
"We both understand that we both can't be selfish," Spiller said. "And if we're both playing at a high level, then it will elevate our team. It's exciting."
The Bills (No. 19 in the AP Pro32) have high expectations approaching this season, and part of that revolves around an offense that returns mostly intact after finishing a respectable 14th in the NFL in yards gained last year. It's a Gailey-run attack that relies on its running backs to play a key role in both the ground game and as receivers to keep opponents off-balance.
Though the two running backs have been together since 2010, when the Bills selected Spiller with the ninth pick in the draft, this marks the first season they're being regarded as relative equals.
Jackson, the veteran stalwart, was the team's first-half MVP in helping the Bills get off to a 5-2 start before his season ended in November, when he broke a bone in his right leg. Through seven games, Jackson was fourth in the NFL with 721 yards rushing and second with 1,074 yards from scrimmage.
Having signed a two-year, $9 million contract extension this offseason, Jackson has both the respect he's long desired from the Bills, and also the drive to show last year was no fluke.
"I want to show that I belong as a 31-year-old running back," Jackson said. "I want to go out and show why they showed faith in me, and why they kept me around."
Spiller has something to prove as well. He's eager to show he can build off what he did in showing flashes of his potential in filling in for Jackson over the final six games last season. Enjoying his most playing time since arriving in Buffalo, Spiller averaged 74 yards per game and scored five times, including two touchdowns receiving.