After seven games of incessant shuffling, Coach Steve Spurrier yesterday sent the biggest jolt yet through his wide receiving corps with the signing of nine-year veteran Willie Jackson, one of his former wideouts at the University of Florida.
Jackson -- 6 feet 1, 215 pounds -- cleared waivers Wednesday after being released by the Atlanta Falcons. The 31-year-old participated in practice yesterday at Redskins Park but is unlikely to play Sunday against Seattle at Seahawks Stadium.
"I don't know if he can learn all the stuff or not," said Spurrier, who coached Jackson from 1991 to 1993. "And the other guys are doing pretty well also so we'll see how much he can learn or relearn about our offense."
To make room on the roster, the Redskins waived Kevin Lockett, whose precise routes finally earned him a starting job in Game 5 on Oct. 6. But he had a costly fumble in a loss to Green Bay two weeks later and was inactive for last week's game against Indianapolis.
"Kevin Lockett -- he's a dang good receiver, and I hope somebody picks him up because he deserves to play somewhere," Spurrier said. "We just felt like adding Willie will help us a little bit more in the receiving corps."
How long will it take Jackson to learn a system in which he hasn't played in almost a decade?
"I have no idea," said Jackson, who will earn roughly $344,000, the prorated portion of $650,000, the minimum salary for players with nine years' experience. "I'm pretty familiar with a lot of stuff. I just have to go in and learn it all, I guess, sharpen up tonight, go home and get in the playbook. It's a change this late in the season, but at the same time I'm not really starting from the beginning."
Last season with the New Orleans Saints, Jackson had 81 catches for 1,046 yards. But in Atlanta, Jackson had only 18 catches for 199 yards in reduced playing time, and lost his starting job to Shawn Jefferson.
The Redskins seem like an odd choice for a wideout looking for stability. For example, Darnerien McCants was inactive for four games this season, but emerged as one of the team's top wideouts during his NFL debut last week.
"I just love to play the game," Jackson said. "Just being given an opportunity to play the game, that's the one thing I'm looking forward to. It's a new start. It's just earlier than expected."
Jackson arrived at Redskins Park at 1 p.m., and was greeted near the entrance by special teams coach Mike Stock before heading to meet with other members of the organization. Although Jackson joins his sixth NFL team, he is familiar with four Redskins who also played for Spurrier at Florida: wide receivers Chris Doering and Jacquez Green and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. Matthews was the Gators' starting quarterback for two of the three years Jackson started and he helped Jackson finish with the second-most productive receiving career in school history, with 162 receptions for 2,172 yards.
"He was basically my go-to guy," said Matthews, who, like Jackson, lives in Gainesville, where they play basketball occasionally during the offseason. "He was the only receiver I played with that played in the NFL. He'll help us out."
Doering and Jackson go back even further, to P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville, where they were star receivers. "I've been in school with him since I was little," Doering said. "He's going to be a good addition on the team."
Jackson is similar to wide receiver Rod Gardner: Neither has blazing speed, but both have powerful physiques and strong hands to make catches in traffic. But Jackson runs more precise routes and frequently breaks tackles by defensive backs. Gardner declined to comment on Jackson's signing, and several Redskins expressed ambivalence about the sudden change.
"It's weird, but I think he can help us," said Green, who played at Florida with Jackson's brother, Terry, who now plays with the 49ers. "He's someone besides myself who can show Rod and the younger receivers how things are supposed to be done on Sundays."
Doering said: "Any time there's addition or subtraction from your team, it's a little bit weird, especially replacing a guy like Kevin, who's been around and been a big part of our season. It's tough to come in and not see him here one day."