Patience, diligence and dedication have paid off for Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
After suffering back-to-back injuries that ruined most of 2009 and all of the 2010 season, Jackson was given the opportunity he wanted, to come back to Cleveland and play in 2011.
On Monday, the sixth-year linebacker signed a multi-year contract extension with the Browns. The announcement was made by team president Mike Holmgren.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” an emotional Jackson told members of the media Monday. “As I sit here today, I can remember dating back to over a year ago when I didn’t know whether or not, while I was injured and rehabbing, if I was doing the necessary things to get myself prepared for the upcoming season. When Coach Holmgren and staff gave me the opportunity to come back and play, that’s all I needed. I’ve been through a lot, prepared and am ready to lead this team to a postseason and carry the young guys on this team.”
Jackson led the Browns and the AFC with 158 total tackles in 2011 while serving as the middle linebacker in the Browns’ new 4-3 defense under coordinator Dick Jauron. He was second only to Washington Redskins linebacker and Cleveland native London Fletcher for the league lead in tackles.
In addition to his tackles total, Jackson registered a personal-best 3.5 sacks, which surpassed his career total of three over his previous five seasons. Jackson also recovered three fumbles, which was second-best in the NFL and first in the AFC.
Prior to 2011, Jackson missed 26 straight games with consecutive and separate pectoral tears.
“It was a great feeling to play 16 games to get that behind me and my goals are going to continue to increase,” Jackson said. “I was able to dig myself out of the hole. That wasn’t the end of the world. Not being able to play football would not have been the end of the world, but that’s my life right now. I was going to put my best foot forward.”
In the first three games of the season, Jackson registered 30 tackles, 24 solo stops, one forced fumble and 2.5 sacks. Because of his play, Jackson was awarded the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September and later named a first alternate for the AFC’s Pro Bowl team.
For his efforts in returning to the field after missing the 26 games, Jackson was named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner and finished second for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Jackson was a second-round pick (No. 34 overall) of the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft with a selection the team got through a trade with New Orleans. He has registered 626 total tackles, 408 solo stops and 6.5 quarterback sacks, while defending 14 passes and intercepting five others in his time with the Browns.
For Jackson, remaining in Cleveland and being a Brown for his entire career was something very important.
“It’s a feat that a lot of guys around my age and with the years that I have been in the league can’t say, to start somewhere and finish somewhere,” Jackson said. “That’s become important each and every day that I think about me being here next year, the year after that, the year after that. It’s important just to prove anybody wrong. I always carry a chip on my shoulder; I always want to put my best foot forward and I’ve never been dealt a great hand growing up, so I always had to go above and beyond. That’s been my life; that’s how I’m wired and that’s who I am.”
Having been through five losing seasons in six years, Jackson wants to experience success with the Browns.
“This fan-base and this community have been great,” Jackson said. “They’ve shown me nothing but love over the years. They love you when you win and they’ll show you how they feel when you lose. I feel like, now, we have a good staff intact, a stable of players here to build off of moving forward. I would say this last year, the guys who know me, getting to the postseason is very important. That’s No. 1, over anything -- winning games and obviously, winning the Super Bowl. We’re moving in the right direction.”
He added, “When we do make that next step, I want to be a part of it. That means something, to be able to walk away and say, ‘You know what? I was a part of that team. I was a part of this team,’ so I can have something to talk about when I’m old and gray.”
HOLMGREN HAPPY WITH SIGNING
At the beginning of Monday’s press conference, Browns president Mike Holmgren expressed his and the team’s happiness with having Jackson in the fold for the long-term.
“You know how important he is to this team; You know how important he will be in the development of the team for years to come,” Holmgren told the media. “Signing this extension was the No. 1 priority for us as an organization this offseason. Having him with us is a big deal for this football team. The component every successful team needs is leadership from players the younger players look up to. By having D’Qwell sign with us for an extension, we have one of the pieces to the puzzle in place. There’s not a finer guy on the team.”