As he attempts to make his third comeback from a drug suspension, Redskins safety Tanard Jackson described himself as humbled and thankful. He also said he he’s confident that he will not make the same mistakes again.
Three weeks ago, commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Jackson, ending a ban – the punishment for repeatedly violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and failing tests for marijuana use – that forced him away from the game for two seasons.
Jackson said on Thursday during the time away, he had plenty of time to reflect on his mistakes. At times he wondered if he would ever make it back to the NFL. He worked a warehouse job (he declined to say where, or what his job consisted of) and at times he found it difficult to remain in some type of football shape. But the support of family and friends kept him from giving up hope, Jackson said.
“Long. Long,” Jackson said when asked to describe the suspension. “It was long – especially being from this area and growing up a Redskins fan and being around family and seeing the guys on TV. It was a long wait. But I put myself in that situation. Obviously, I had to do what I had to do to get back, and now that I’m back, I’m blessed to have this opportunity.”
Jackson must make up for lost time, and it remains to be seen how he fits into the Redskins’ plans. Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark currently hold the starting strong and free safety positions, respectively. And on Thursday, second-year players Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo worked as their backups. Jackson was the third-team free safety. He also worked as a gunner on special teams.
Jackson still has a ways to go. But thus far, he has impressed coaches with his work ethic and his ability to re-acclimate himself quickly.
“He doesn’t look like he’s been away for two years. He’s done a good job,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s mentally into it, physically he’s in good shape, a lot better shape than we were thinking he would be, so he’s done a good job. You know people make mistakes. He had an unfortunate incident or two – we’re going to give him a shot – and this is probably his last go around. So he’s going to make the most of it. I’m sure he’s a good person, a good player and hopefully he’ll learn from his mistakes off the field and perform at a high level like we know he’s capable of.”
Jackson didn’t share his expectations for this coming season, but said he’ll aim to capitalize on whatever shot the coaches give him.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I have, and I’m ready to take full advantage of it,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he realized that he must make a lifestyle change in order to avoid falling back into his old ways. He said the two-season layoff will serve as all the motivation he needs to avoid another relapse.
“That long wait,” he said. “That time period I was out from doing something I love to do, and not having that camaraderie with the teammates and not having that for that long, and having to go out and work in the warehouse from 9 to 5, it’s a humbling experience.”
Jackson continued, “I have things I have to do as far as with the NFL and what I have to do as far as complying to things. Those things right there are enough to keep me. A lifestyle change is necessary any time you’re in a position like that. With the support of good people and keeping good people around me in tough times, keeping those people around me is definitely important.
As he spoke, Clark walked up behind Jackson, put an arm around him and addressed the reporters.
“Tanard’s going to be awesome this year, he’s going to be a huge part of what we do,” Clark said with a smile. “We’re going to get him right.”
Jackson chuckled, nodded and said, “Absolutely.”
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