Bucs free safety Tanard Jackson, who has not been seen or heard from since he was indefinitely suspended by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy after Week 2 last year, took advantage of the NFL lockout and showed up to Tampa Bay's unofficial mini-camp on Wednesday to work out with his teammates.
BRADENTON – One of the notable participants during Wednesday’s unofficial, voluntary Buccaneers mini-camp at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla. was Tanard Jackson. The former starting free safety was on the list of players expected to attend the three-day mini-camp, but didn’t show up until Wednesday morning.
Jackson, who looked like he was in playing shape despite being suspended since Week 3 of the 2010 NFL season due to another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, was happy to take advantage of the circumstances of the NFL lockout and return to the practice field with the Buccaneers because league rules are no longer in effect without a collective bargaining agreement.
“I’ve just been trying to stay in shape and doing what I can do,” Jackson said. “There’s not much I can do during this lockout with me being in the situation I was in. I’m just happy to be out here with some of my teammates and hopefully I can get into the season and be back and be a part of this team.”
Jackson's suspension began on September 22, 2010, and he is eligible to apply for reinstatement 60 days before that date this year. Jackson was suspended for the first four games of the 2009 season for violating the league's policy on substance abuse for the second time.
Due to Jackson being suspension, he did not incur a year of service time and he will not be a free agent in 2011. Jackson was in the final year of a four-year contract, but his suspension keeps him under contract with the Buccaneers for the 2011 season.
The Bucs have not commented publicly about Jackson since general manager Mark Dominik released this official statement last September.
“Tanard is a talented young man whom we hope is able to use this year to put his troubles behind him and ultimately return a strong man and player,” said Dominik. “It’s up to Tanard whether the team and our fans eventually realize his considerable promise.”
Numerous team officials have told PewterReport.com that they intend to bring him back for another chance should Jackson be reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who ironically was at Tampa Bay’s mini-camp this morning along with NFL Players Association executive DeMaurice Smith. Both Goodell and Smith were at the IMG Performance Institute to address the NFLPA’s rookie symposium and stopped by during warm-ups to see the Bucs before they practiced.
Jackson said he has mostly been out of contact with his Tampa Bay teammates during his suspension.
“Because of the rules and stipulations during my suspension when the league was in effect, and with the stuff that was going on afterwards I didn’t really communicate with a lot of players,” Jackson said. “This is my first time communicating and talking with a lot of the players since September of last year.”
Jackson was asked if he had returned to Syracuse University to train and stay in shape, but said that he chose to stay in Florida.
“No, I’ve actually been home alone,” Jackson said. “[Football] is a major part of my life and this is a great feeling to be back out here with the team. That’s the most important thing for me right now – to get back out there.”
Jackson was greeted with a warm welcome from his teammates on Wednesday morning.
“Oh, man! My eyes lit up [when I saw him] because all I remembered when I went to make a tackle for loss and T-Jack blew me up,” said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “I was like, ‘Man, if you somebody else like that … let’s go!’ That’s all I visualized. He’s a little guy but he packs a hard punch. He’s a firecracker, man. He’s ready to go.”
During the Wednesday morning practice, veteran Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib spent a lot of time hanging with Jackson and working with him by giving him a refresher course on what he has missed over the past year during his suspension.
“That’s my guy. Yeah, he’s out here,” Talib said. “It’s always good [to see him].”
Jackson was a fourth-round pick of the Buccaneers in the 2007 NFL Draft. He had been the starter at free safety since his first game as a rookie. In the 12 games he played in during the 2010 season, Jackson recorded 85 tackles, a career-high five interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery and scored two defensive touchdowns. In the two games he played in during the 2011 campaign, Jackson recorded 13 tackles with two tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery.
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