If Tanard Jackson returns to practice Thursday as expected, then the competition at safety can finally begin in earnest.
Jackson missed the three days of training camp with a calf muscle strain, then sat out the next three days because of a CBA-mandated acclimation period.
“It definitely didn’t help,” he said of the delay. “But it’s a long camp; we still have a lot competition left. My opportunity will come.”
Jackson is expected to challenge Madieu Williams for the starting free safety job. Brandon Meriweather, meanwhile, is expected to start at strong safety, while DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty appear to be battling for backup duty.
Jackson said he can play both safety positions, but acknowledged he’s more comfortable playing free.
The native of Silver Spring began camp on the physically unable to perform list because of the ailing calf muscle. He said he was cleared by team doctors Sunday but couldn’t join practice immediately because of a provision in the CBA that prohibits contact drills and pads during a player’s first three days in camp.
“I’ve been patient these past three days,” he said. “I didn’t know about the acclimation thing in the new CBA. I guess it’s a good thing because it protects us.”
Jackson joined the Redskins in April following his release by Tampa Bay, where he missed the majority of the 2010 season after being suspended by the NFL for a second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. He was reinstated seven games into the 2011 season but had surgery on his shoulder in January. The Bucs cut him in April when he a failed physical exam.
The hard-hitting 27-year-old didn’t stay unemployed long. Secondary Coach Raheem Morris – Jackson’s head coach in Tampa Bay – quickly reached out to the safety, who, in 2009, posted career highs in tackles (71) and interceptions (5) in 12 games.
In 56 career games – all with the Bucs – Jackson has 239 tackles, 10 interceptions and a sack.
“As soon as I got released, I was on the phone with Raheem and Coach [Jim] Haslett, in less than 30 minutes,” Jackson said.
But if he wants to remain with his hometown team – and reward Morris’ faith in him – he’s got to make up for lost time.
“I don’t have to overdo it,” he said. “But I’m anxious to get out there. I’m ready to go now.”