A failed physical and concerns about Tanard Jackson's "growth" as a football player prompted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to release the starting safety on Tuesday despite a lack of depth at the position.
General manager Mark Dominik made the announcement at a hastily called news conference at One Buc Place, where a greater focus on accountability is being established.
"What's important to us as an organization is the growth of our football players and how they handle, on and off the field, the (goal of becoming) the best Buccaneer possible," Dominik said. "That's what we're looking for.''
Jackson, a 2007 fourth-round draft pick who started all 56 games he played for Tampa Bay, is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
He was suspended twice – for four games in 2009 and more than a year in 2010 – for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. His release, Dominik said, was not related to Jackson's participation in the league's substance abuse program.
"It's all about becoming the best Buccaneer possible,'' Dominik said. "That's what growth is and we want the growth of this football team to accelerate.''
Jackson, who has 10 career interceptions, was not at the team facility last week for the start of the voluntary offseason program. It was the first opportunity for players to meet with new head coach Greg Schiano and the rest of the coaching staff, as well as begin conditioning.
Jackson has been working out on his own in Maryland, he said, but was not told that had anything to do with his release.
"The way it was explained to me is they were going in a different direction,'' Jackson told The Tampa Tribune by phone. "That's really all that was said. (My approach to rehab) may have played a role in it, I don't know. As far as I know, it was just a business decision.
"But either way, I can't be upset with the organization because they did stand by me through a lot, and they didn't have to. As we all know, this is part of the business. Some guys are able to play with one team their whole career but we rarely see that.''
Jackson was reinstated in October from indefinite suspension after his second violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He was immediately welcomed back and started the team's next game. That same month, he signed a one-year contract extension with a $2.9 million salary for 2012.
Assessing Jackson's growth is in keeping with Tampa Bay's focus on accountability under Schiano, who is expected to run a tighter ship than his predecessor, Raheem Morris. Team co-chairman Joel Glazer said recently he expects Schiano to change the culture in the lockerroom.
Jackson's recovery from shoulder surgery is going well and he expects to be ready for the start of training camps, he said.
The Bucs, meanwhile, are suddenly on the lookout for help at one of the thinnest positions on the roster.
Of the four remaining safeties, third-year pro Cody Grimm has the most experience with 12 starts. But Grimm has yet to make it through a full season, succumbing to an ankle injury in 2010 and a knee injury in 2011.
Rounding out the depth chart are Larry Asante (12 games, no starts), Ahmad Black (four games, no starts) and Devin Holland (four games, no starts).
Among the options open to the Bucs is re-signing free agent Sean Jones, who started all 32 games the past two years, or possibly moving veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to safety.
"I did that a couple of years ago,'' Barber said last week during a break in the offseason workouts. "I'll fit in where I fit in. They know I'm here to help this team win … no matter what that role is.''