After two years away from the game, Tanard Jackson knows the importance of this chance with the Redskins. Jackson was suspended from the NFL after repeated substance abuse violations, and was just reinstated to the league within the last month. After organized team activities with the Redskins, Jackson seemed like a man humbled and appreciative of the chance to get back to pro football.
"It feels great to get back out here and be a part of this. It's something that I love to do," Jackson said Thursday after OTAs. "It's a great feeling anytime you've been away from something you love for two years."
Where Jackson fits in on the field remains a question. On a minimum salary deal, Jackson could be expendable in a crowded safety field that lists veterans like Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark along with young players Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and Jose Gumbs. But if Jackson can get back to the level of play he displayed in five seasons with Tampa, he will be on the field for Washington.
"He doesn’t look like he’s been away for two years. He’s done a good job," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Jackson. "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."
Jackson, a D.C. native who says he grew up rooting for the 'Skins, knows he has to earn a roster spot.
"It's a lot of work to be done from here," he said. "I'm ready for the challenge."
The Redskins pass defense needs to improve, and with 10 career interceptions, Jackson could help the team.
"This is probably his last go around," Gruden said of Jackson. "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 echoed similar sentiments.
"It's still football. It's still pro football," Jackson said, asked if he will be ready for the season. And he thinks the defense can improve.
"We got a good group, young guys, we got some veterans. Our defense as a whole will be a lot better."