Since the start of offseason workouts, the Cleveland Browns have suffered a rash of injuries on defense, but some of those players who missed time returned to practice after the team’s 35-10 win over the Green Bay Packers last Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Veteran middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson missed several practices and the first two preseason games with a shoulder injury, but was one of those players who returned to the field, as he joined his teammates in full pads for Sunday afternoon’s practice session at the Browns’ Berea training facility.
“Now, I’m back and I’ll move forward,” Jackson said of his shoulder. “It was just sore. We had a lot of guys going down and banged up, so we took the precautionary route just to let it calm down a bit. Now, I’m back and I’m not looking forward to sitting back and watching games anymore. It’s better to sit out now if something comes up because it’s early and the season hasn’t started. When we get rolling, I’m full-steam ahead.”
Jackson’s missed time coupled itself with
Gocong is out of the year with the Achilles injury and Fujita has spent the offseason dealing with a looming suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ alleged bounty program in 2009.
“When he’s back out there, it adds to what we can do,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Jackson. “The good news, though, while he’s been out, I’ve watched some young linebackers get in there and make the best of their opportunities so they can play around him. Of course, we want all of our guys that we’ve slotted as starters to be out there working all the time and fortunately, he’s getting back on the field.”
Jackson missed most of 2009 and all of 2010 with consecutive and separate pectoral tears. While on the sidelines for those 26 games, Jackson was able to see a different perspective of football.
“When I was injured, I tell everybody it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me in terms of the game, what I learned just watching the game and understanding why we called defenses when we called it and understanding situations of the game,” said Jackson. “That part of it was great and I try to apply it anytime I play and help the younger guys understand the way I look at down-and-distance versus the time left on the clock.”
This time around, Jackson did not sit back and watch his teammates go through their assignments on the field. Jackson spent his time answering questions from teammates, mentoring the younger linebackers on the sidelines and giving hints of what he was seeing from the opponent.
“It’s just a different role I had to take not being out there with the guys,” Jackson said. “Always being around and communicating, you get a different sense of what you can and cannot do from a coach’s perspective. Just getting back on the field, communicating, talking, it’s always good. For the most part, I was helping out any way I could. It was boring watching the game. I don’t look forward to doing that at all. I’d rather be out there on the field, in the trenches, with my guys.”
Jackson and the Browns’ other veteran linebackers “preached” to the younger players the need to be prepared to play at all times. It is a lesson that also applied to the defensive line, which lost Phil Taylor and spent time without
“All the linebackers have to be interchangeable, learn every position and the guys did well,” Jackson said. “They had a great preseason game last week, rose to the challenge. I was proud of those guys. Once we get to those dog days, where it’s the fourth quarter and the game is on the line, that’s when you really see what you have.”