FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Steven Jackson is still trying to feel his way through his first offseason with the Atlanta Falcons.
The NFL's active career-leading rusher has been reporting to work early and staying late so he can make a good impression on his new team.
There's a lot to learn for Jackson, who left St. Louis after nine seasons to sign a three-year, $12 million contract with Atlanta.
Jackson says he signed a three-year contract with Atlanta three months ago because the Falcons — with quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez and the wideout tandem of Roddy White and Julio Jones — offer him a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl.
"I just think that this offense has so many weapons that I'm going to get quality carries," Jackson said at mini-camp this week. "I'm going to have opportunities that may not be 25 carries a game, but it will be quality touches and allow me to close out a game."
Closing out games has haunted the Falcons' running game over the last two years.
One glaring example came against New Orleans in November 2011, when Michael Turner was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 in overtime. The Saints needed just three snaps to kick a field goal and leave Atlanta with a victory that helped them win the NFC South.
Five months ago at the Georgia Dome, the stakes were higher and the anguish greater when the Falcons failed to protect a second-half lead in the NFC championship game.
Atlanta finished 10 yards shy of touchdown and a trip to the Super Bowl, failing to score against San Francisco in the final two quarters.
Jackson doesn't believe the Falcons will struggle this year to control the clock late in games or to convert short-yardage situations. Though he stops short of promising to change Atlanta's fortune single-handedly, Jackson sees potential for vast improvement.
"I'm not really quite sure what was happening in the years previous, but these are runs where you have to keep churning your legs, (make the right) read and trust your offensive line to get the job done," he said. "If it pops (for a big gain), that's great, but most importantly, it's to move the chains."