ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Fred Jackson is getting a little grief from his Buffalo Bills teammates after the running back's last trip to Arizona turned into a humorous misadventure.
The ribbing has left Jackson wanting another chance at driving quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's off-road vehicle and go four-wheeling into the rocky wilderness outside of Phoenix. And this time he vows not to blow out a tire and nearly leave everyone stranded in the middle of nowhere.
"Stranded is a harsh word," Jackson said with a laugh Friday. He's referring to what happened during the NFL lockout last year, when Jackson and a number of Bills players spent a week at Fitzpatrick's home in Arizona holding informal workouts.
"They were making fun of me for it, and I told them (the vehicle) just couldn't handle it," Jackson said. "I ran over a pretty decent-sized rock, and the rock won."
Jackson is being reminded of his off-road exploits as Buffalo (2-2) prepares for an extended West Coast swing.
After playing San Francisco (3-1) on Sunday, the Bills will travel to Arizona, where they'll spend next week practicing for their game against the Cardinals (4-1) on Oct. 14.
This, of course, will be more of a business trip, though Jackson said his approach will be no different on the field — or off it — than last time.
"I'm not going to change the way I drive, or the way I run either," he said. "Full pedal to the metal."
Coming off an embarrassing 52-28 loss to New England, the Bills can't afford too many more blown tires entering what's become a critical portion of their schedule. Buffalo is opening a stretch in which it will play four of its next five on the road.
"It's going to define what we want to do this season, we know that," Jackson said. "To get to where we want to be, we have to be able to go on the road and win games, and win games against opponents like this."
Coach Chan Gailey made the decision to have the team stay out west rather than travel home between games. By eliminating a pair of cross-country flights, Gailey believes his players will be more rested and better accustomed to the time change.
The Bills will spend next week staying at Phoenix resort, and practicing at Arizona State University.
"I think it's going to be kind of like a training camp atmosphere where it's just us," linebacker Bryan Scott said. "There'll be no distractions. It's just us. It's a business trip."
That doesn't mean there won't be opportunities for players to have fun and opportunities to bond.
Fitzpatrick has already been pegged to serve as a quasi-tour guide, and is also preparing to host a number of players at his home for a barbecue.
Fitzpatrick is looking forward to the week away as an opportunity for the players to gel.
"I think we've got great chemistry in this locker room, and that's how you pull through in adverse times," he said. "And that's how you pull through and are able to overcome a lot of the negative things that are going on around you."
The Bills could certainly use a boost after an inconsistent start to the season.
And Fitzpatrick can't help but be reminded of the adversity he and his teammates faced last year after Jackson blew the tire to one of the two off-road vehicles they were driving.
Fitzpatrick came to the rescue, by gently driving the vehicle down a hill and some two miles on the flat tire to where the players had parked.
"Yeah, I saved Fred's butt," Fitzpatrick said, with a smile.
Jackson wouldn't mind another shot.
"I'm up for another drive if Fitz will let me get behind the wheel," said Jackson, who's still waiting for a reply. "He said he needed a couple of days to think about it."
NOTES: OG Chad Rinehart was held out of practice Friday for precautionary reasons a day after hurting his calf. Gailey said Rinehart — who is filling in for injured starter Kraig Urbik (ankle) — should be ready to play Sunday. ... S Jairus Byrd (hip) continued to practice and should play despite being listed as questionable. ... The Bills haven't played consecutive games on the west coast since 1965, when they played at Oakland and San Diego.
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