As the team whittled its roster from 75 players to 53, as required by the NFL, Jackson, who was expected to see significant playing time at both safety positions, was suspended indefinitely for his third violation of the league’s drug policy, according to a statement issued by the NFL.
Jackson’s suspension begins immediately, according to the NFL, which added that he will be eligible for reinstatement Aug. 31, 2013, when his case comes up for review. Jackson, a Silver Spring native who already had lost 20 games to two previous suspensions for substance abuse violations, appealed the latest sanction but his request for a lesser penalty was denied, an NFL spokesman said.
The Redskins and Jackson’s agent, Peter Schaffer, had not commented by Friday evening.
The Redskins signed Jackson shortly after he was released by Tampa Bay in April. At the time of his release, Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik said Jackson hadn’t failed any additional drug tests. Jackson had, however, failed a physical and was coming off shoulder surgery.
Jackson’s coach in Tampa Bay, Raheem Morris, was hired during the offseason to coach Washington’s secondary. When asked this summer whether the 27-year-old safety had matured, Morris said: “It’s always hard to say. You’ve got to build that thing through trust. He’s got another opportunity here, so it’s going to be his opportunity to lose or his opportunity to win.”
It’s unclear when Jackson failed his latest drug test. The Redskins were aware of his impending suspension, however, and kept five other safeties on the 53-man roster. Safe from Friday’s cuts were Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams, the projected starters, as well as Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes and rookie Jordan Bernstine.
After starting training camp with an injury, Jackson had begun to progress quickly and at times looked like the most talented safety on the team. He started the third preseason game in place of Meriweather (who had suffered a sprained knee), and delivered several big hits, including one to break up a touchdown pass.
Jackson missed Monday’s practice for what Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan described as, “personal reasons,” then was held out of Wednesday’s preseason finale along with many other veterans.
The most surprising cut of the day was Hightower, who had spent the past 10 months working his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered on Oct. 23, 2011. The fifth-year pro, whom Washington acquired via trade from Arizona in 2011, opened last season as the team’s featured back. The former Episcopal High School standout was lost for the season in the fifth game, however.