Safety Tanard Jackson returned to One Buc Place for the first time in 56 weeks Tuesday and spent the day preparing to do something he feared he might never do again: play professional football for the Buccaneers.
Jackson, who was suspended indefinitely Sept. 22, 2010, for a third violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy, was officially reinstated by the league at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"I'm very anxious to get back on the field and to be back with my teammates,'' Jackson said. "I think I'm in great condition, I'm ready to play, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes at this point to help this team.''
The Bucs are a team that could use Jackson's help. They recently lost Cody Grimm, the player who replaced Jackson, to a season-ending knee injury, and they're coming off a 48-3 loss at San Francisco in which they gave up 213 yards rushing.
The Bucs have two weeks to activate Jackson, who was immediately placed on the NFL's exempt/commissioner's permission list, and it may be at least that long before Jackson is ready to play in a game.
"Tanard has not played football in 56 weeks,'' Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "He hasn't practiced very much (either) in terms of (participating in) real football drills.
"So this is an opportunity for him to get back out there and show (us) that the muscle memory hasn't been lost and (show us) what he can do to help this football team.''
Jackson has been a big help to the Bucs in the past. A fourth-round draft pick out of Syracuse in 2007, he immediately made the switch from cornerback to safety.
Jackson has started each of the 46 games he's played for the Bucs. He has 278 tackles, one sack, 29 pass defenses, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and eight interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.
Eagles coach Andy Reid once referred to Jackson as an "All-Pro caliber'' player, but Jackson's battles with substance abuse have threatened to destroy his career.
He was suspended for the first four games of the 2009 season for a second violation of the substance-abuse policy in August 2009, and then was suspended indefinitely after his third violation of the policy was discovered a year later.
Those violations aside, Dominik said his level of trust in Jackson remains "very high'' because he knows what Jackson has been through and what he has done in recent months to regain reinstatement.
Jackson would not go into detail regarding the steps he took to regain his eligibility, but he admitted to doing "a stint in treatment that I needed and that was also required for reinstatement.''
Jackson said he never met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who held the sole authority to lift his suspension, but he worked through a medical adviser whose recommendation Goodell followed.
"Suspensions aren't intended to be lifetime,'' Goodell told The Tampa Tribune. "When individuals meet their obligations and fulfill that responsibility, they're eligible to come back. I hope (Jackson) makes better decisions and (that) we never have to look back at this.''
Jackson said while he is trying to move forward and put this incident behind him, he must also learn to be more accountable in an effort to fully regain his team's trust. At the same time, he said he is grateful the Bucs welcomed him back.
"This organization has stood by me through a lot,'' he said. "All I can say is I'm proud to have those guys in my corner.''