Denver Broncos suspended safety Kareem Jackson admittedly hasn’t learned his lesson after forfeiting nearly $1 million of his salary for a series of illegal hits that have resulted in a pair of ejections, multiple fines and six weeks’ worth of lost wages.
That’s because the NFL isn’t a very good tutor, Jackson said.
The 14-year veteran argues he’s being singled out by the league and that the NFL has no adequate answers about how he’s supposed to change his hard-hitting playing style to conform to today’s game where the league scorns the collisions it once celebrated.
Jackson was granted an audience with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell two weeks ago following his second suspension and it didn’t exactly go as he had hoped.
“I was told that I’m responsible for the offensive guys’ protection,” Jackson said Monday night before hosting 50 young people from the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver for his annual “JackaClaus Shopping Spree” at a Walmart in Parker.
“So, I’m not really sure how I protect myself, make plays and protect them, as well. But that’s what I was told. And I’m not really sure what I do moving forward as far as playing this game. So, hopefully I’ll figure it out.
“At the end of the day,” added Jackson, “I’m going to go out and I’ll play the game as I have since 2010,” Jackson said.
That ought to worry coach Sean Payton and Broncos fans.
He drew his second suspension for the first tackle he made upon his return from his first suspension when he blasted Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs in Week 11.
Thanks largely to the heady, steady play of his replacement, PJ Locke, the first safety in team history to record sacks in three consecutive games, the Broncos (7-6) have won four of the five games Jackson has missed.
Denver is trying to become just the fourth team since the merger to make the playoffs despite starting out 1-5. The Broncos trail the sliding Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) by just one game in the AFC West, and Jackson is eligible to return to practice next week ahead of the Broncos’ Christmas Eve game against New England.
They could sure use their tone-setter down the stretch, providing he doesn’t get kicked out any more.
“For me, I guess, lowering my target (zone) even more than I have,” is one way, to avoid more trouble, Jackson said. “As far as trying to protect the guy on the other side, it’s impossible. I have no clue as to how I’m supposed to do that.”
Jackson has surrendered $837,000 in lost paychecks to go with the $89,670 he’s been fined for unsafe hits this season, although Jackson said his unflagged hit on Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco in Week 6 that drew a $43,709 fine was erased entirely by the league – but not before Goodell used it as an example of Jackson’s over-the-top tackles during their Nov. 30 meeting in New York.
Jackson said Goodell asked him why would he hit Pacheco like he did when the running back was going down and Jackson explained he’d already commited to going in low and that as elite as NFL athletes are, it’s impossible for any human to change his trajectory in that split-second and avoid the contact when the ballcarrier ducks at the very last moment.
“It’s impossible to play this game and do what you guys are asking us to do,” Jadckson said. “It makes no sense.”
“I told him a lot of these are incidental contact,” too, Jackson argued. “Once I’m committed and I’m going, I can’t change.” Besides, Jackson said, “I’m the last line of defense. It’s my job to get him down.’”
Two days after the league used the hit on Pacheco in their defense of Jackson’s suspension, the league “turned around and gave me all my money back for it,” Jackson said. “And then I was just like, ‘Why would you give me all my money back from the Kansas City hit? All of these other hits are pretty much the same.”
Jackson said that on Dec. 4, he sent a thank-you note to Goodell for meeting with him and he attached cut-ups of other unflagged, unfined hits across the NFL this season. “And I said, ‘I can’t help but think you guys are singling me out because these guys aren’t getting flagged, there’s no consequences and these are far worse hits than mine,’” Jackson said.
In an epic rant on the Stephen A. Smith show last month, Tom Brady said the level of play in the NFL has deteriorated just since his retirement on Feb. 1, and one reason he gave for the mediocrity he lamented was the league’s insistence that defenders have to keep offensive players out of harm’s way.
“It’s not up to a defensive player to protect an offensive player,” Brady ranted. “A defensive player needs to protect himself. I didn’t throw the ball to certain areas because I was afraid a player was going to get knocked out. That’s the reality.”
Exactly, said Jackson.
“It’s football. It should be their responsibility and their job to protect themselves.”