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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ex-Buc Tanard Jackson gets another chance with Redskins

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TAMPA — When the Washington Redskins report to training camp July 24, Tanard Jackson will be relegated to the shadows.

Members of the national media who show up at Richmond, Va., that day will be interested in talking to quarterback Robert Griffin III, new wide receiver DeSean Jackson or rookie head coach Jay Gruden.

Some reporters may inquire about the controversy swirling around the franchise’s name.

Jackson won’t be in the spotlight, and that’s all right because you don’t need extra scrutiny when you’re trying to save a once-promising career now in shambles.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans will remember Jackson as a dynamic safety selected out of Syracuse in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. A converted college cornerback, Jackson started all 16 games as a rookie for a club that won the NFC South under Jon Gruden, powered by the NFL’s top-rated defense.

There were some reservations about Jackson’s character heading into the 2007 draft, but the Bucs figured they had pulled off a steal until he was suspended the first four games of the 2009 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

When Jackson returned, he intercepted five passes the rest of the way, returning two for touchdowns.

Given a second chance, Jackson sounded remorseful in the summer of 2010.

“I let all my teammates and the Buc organization down and I cannot get those four games back,’’ Jackson told me at training camp. “But now all this stuff is behind me. I’ve learned a lot.’’

One month later, Jackson was back in the news for all the wrong reasons — suspended indefinitely by the NFL for another substance-abuse violation.

Once again, the Bucs supported Jackson. He was reinstated in October 2011 and picked off passes in his first two games back.

But as the Bucs closed with a 10-game losing streak that cost coach Raheem Morris his job, Jackson floundered. He had plenty of inept company during the collapse and Jackson was released in the spring of 2012 after a failed physical.

With Morris coaching Washington’s secondary at that point, the Redskins pounced on Jackson quickly. A fresh start dissolved when Jackson was suspended again by the NFL that summer.

Reinstated two months ago, Jackson is grateful for yet another opportunity.

“It was difficult,’’ he said of his two-year absence. “You can imagine somebody getting taken away from something that they love to do and having to humble themselves after doing something wrong. That was me. I had to take responsibility for it and face the consequences.’’

Morris is still overseeing a Washington secondary that also includes former Bucs corner E.J. Biggers, but familiarity will carry Jackson only so far.

The Redskins brought in veteran safety Ryan Clark from Pittsburgh in the offseason and Brandon Meriweather returns, so Jackson, who turns 29 in two weeks, will need a strong training camp just to make the 53-man roster.

“Tanard is going to be awesome this year,’’ vowed Clark. “He’s going to get it right and get us right.’’

The last time Jackson made a tackle in the NFL, the Bucs were in Atlanta for the 2011 season finale and the Falcons were on their way to a comical 42-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Only four of Tampa Bay’s 22 starters from that day remain on the Buc roster.

Jackson had better realize he’s a lucky man.

 

“Going from playing football to working in a warehouse at a 9-to-5 job is a humbling experience,’’ he said last month. “It’s taught me to never take anything in this business for granted.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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