Malik Jackson has always remembered the same piece of advice throughout his previous nine seasons as an NFL veteran.
"Just be quiet and listen," Jackson said in a recent interview for Best Podcast Available. "I don't mean that in all rudeness, to say, 'Shut up,' but if somebody's saying something, listen. If Coach is saying something, listen."
Jackson said that's the main piece of advice he'd deliver to rookies to be best prepared for their first year in the NFL, but as he relayed how he's built a decade-long career in the highest ranks of football, it became more clear why that guidance holds the most importance to him.
Jackson has watched, listened and learned from several players over his career. Robert Ayers and Kevin Vickerson, two defensive linemen who played eight seasons in the NFL, were the first two. All-Pro defensive players Vonn Miller, Demarcus Ware, who both won a Super Bowl with Jackson together in Denver, and Calais Campbell are among them, too. Last year in Philadelphia, he played alongside Fletcher Cox, one of the most well-respected defensive tackles in the league.
Wherever Jackson has gone, he's been surrounded by Pro Bowl talent.
Now, he's hoping to spread his knowledge through the rest of the Browns' defensive tackle room. That was one of the reasons why the Browns brought Jackson to Cleveland — to be the guy other players can listen to.
"The biggest thing is humility," Jackson said. "I understand who I am, and I understand what I bring. I want the best out of everybody, and if I'm talking to you, I'm talking to you because I want to get you better."
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Jackson has earned the respect of any locker room he joins after recording 35 sacks, 99 quarterback hits and 267 tackles across 126 career games. He and linebacker Malcolm Smith are the two most experienced players on the Browns, and he'll be a part of an eight-man competition for starting spots on the defensive line.
Despite his experience, Jackson is still going through the offseason as if nothing is guaranteed. Andrew Billings, Damion Square and Sheldon Day have a combined 18 years of experience in the league (Square leads the pack with nine years) while Tommy Togiai, a 2021 fourth-round pick, and Jordan Elliott, a 2020 third-round pick, are young players who will be given time to develop. Malik McDowell, a 2017 second-round pick, will also have an opportunity to crack the roster.
Jackson is in a position to be a leader for all of them, but he also knows he has to work to earn his spot on the Week 1 roster, too.
"They got some people in that D-Line room that can really compete," he said. "There's a lot of good guys that can pass rush and stop the run, so it'll be good to come out here and compete. It's nice to kind of come back in OTAs and be able to see who your competition is and be able to give them that eye test because the players, we're all doing the same thing thinking, 'What can he do? And what can he do?' And that makes you think, 'What do I need to do better?'"
Jackson already has a pretty strong grasp in how he'll fit in the game plans of defensive coordinator Joe Woods. The two were on the same 2015-16 Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50, and even though Woods was a defensive backs coach at the time, he and Jackson still struck up a close relationship that lasted since they each parted ways from Denver.
That bond was one of the biggest reasons why Jackson wanted to spend 2021 in Cleveland.
"It was a no-brainer," Jackson said. "We were able to have a real conversation about where I'm going to be at, what I'm going to do and how I'll be looked at. He gave me true, concise and real things that I can put my hat on and say, 'That's what I'm going to be.' It's very much a mutual respect."
The Browns know how Jackson can help them on game days, and Jackson knows how he can help the rest of the guys at his position take the next step.
To ensure it all goes to plan, Jackson is still listening and learning to those around him.
But he's also ready to start being the voice others around him hear when it's time to listen up.
"It's about being humble, letting them know that, 'Yeah, I've got 10 years in and a Super Bowl,' that's all cool, but we're here together," he said. "We're all 0-0, and we're here to come together, get better and coach each other up."