ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — During his third NFL drugs-related suspension, Tanard Jackson found himself working in a warehouse to support his family — and harboring legitimate doubts as to whether he would play football again.
The Washington Redskins have given him another chance — likely his last — to get his act straight. Reinstated this month, he was on the field this week for the team’s first full set of offseason practices with rookies and veterans together.
He says this time will be different. Asked why, his answer was an obvious one: During his 20 months away, he had to get a real job.
“That long wait,” Jackson said. “That time period I was out from doing something that I love to do, and not having that camaraderie with the teammates, and having to go out and work in the warehouse from 9 to 5. It was a humbling experience.”
Jackson, 28, was suspended indefinitely without pay for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in August 2012, only a few months after signing with the Redskins. He previously had been suspended twice while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: four games in 2009 and for 12 months starting in September 2010.
“Those negative thoughts creep into your mind when you’ve been out of football for that long,” he said. “It wasn’t my first time. But with support from my family and support from the NFL saying there was a chance, that gave me hope.”
Jackson worked behind projected starting safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather this week. While Jackson was talking to reporters, Clark put his arm around Jackson’s neck and said: “We’re going to get him right. He’s going to get us right.”
On the field, Jackson appeared to move well as he works to get back in football shape.
“That long layoff that I was out, anything that was done football-related, it was an afterthought,” Jackson said. “I’ve got kids, I have a family to provide for, so staying in shape wasn’t really a big No. 1 on my priority list.”
Jackson wouldn’t go into detail about his warehouse job, but it was enough to jar him into making what he called a “lifestyle change” to keep from reverting to old habits. He has no room for error — because the NFL will keep close rein on him with its testing procedures.
“He doesn’t look like he’s been away for two years,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s done a good job. He’s mentally into it. Physically, he’s in good shape, a lot better shape than we were thinking he would be. People make mistakes. He had an unfortunate incident or two, and we’re going to give him a shot. It’s probably his last go-round here, so he’s going to make the most of it, I’m sure.”
Jackson grew up in the D.C. area as a Redskins fan, so watching the games on television during his suspension was especially difficult.
But he had no one to blame but himself.
“I put myself in that position,” he said. “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.”
NOTES: WR DeSean Jackson tweaked his hamstring on a long pass route during practice. Gruden called it a “minor pull.” ”We’ll take the necessary precautions and make sure he’s right,” the coach said. “He’s no good to us unless he’s running very fast.” … DT Barry Cofield missed this week’s practices after recent hernia surgery. … The Redskins signed third-round draft pick T Morgan Moses from Virginia. All eight members of the 2014 draft class are now under contract.
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