On Wednesday the NFL suspended Tanard Jackson for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy for the fourth time. Before moving on to looking at the football side of this, we should note that the implications for Jackson go far beyond football. It’s apparent that he has a major problem and he needs a lot of help.
Although the NFL’s statement called the action an indefinite suspension it seems more likely that it is a lifetime ban. Jackson has already served suspensions of four games and one year when he was with the Bucs and the indefinite suspension after he came to the Redskins. That one ended up being two years. The NFL is unlikely to give him a chance to earn a fifth suspension. Even if the NFL did let him come back at some point it’s hard to imagine a team signing a player with his history.
The Redskins were looking for Jackson to compete for a backup safety job. They don’t necessarily have to go out and sign a safety to replace him before camp starts. They still have eight safeties on the roster including veterans Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather, who are expected to start, and 2013 draft picks Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. It now appears that those four have the inside track on roster spots with Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson also in the mix.
Jackson was reinstated in early May, just before the NFL draft, and the Redskins did not take a safety in that draft, some are looking for cause and effect there. But it seems doubtful that they bypassed safeties due to the presence of Jackson on the roster. There weren’t any safeties they liked earlier in the draft and they had just invested mid- and late-round picks in Thomas and Rambo a year earlier.
The team now has a spot to fill on the 90-man roster. As noted, they have eight safeties after Jackson’s suspension so they are not really in need at the position. They run first, second, and third team in practice so they have enough bodies for that with a couple to spare. They could look to fill a spot on the offensive side, as they are a little tight at tackle, tight end, and fullback.
While the Redskins are certainly disappointed by Jackson’s suspension they probably are not shocked. They had him lining up with the third team. Certainly part of that was making him work his way back up after he was set to be the starter before his suspension just before the 2012 season. But it’s also a sign that you don’t necessarily expect the player to be around in the long haul.