DENVER – Three plays into his return from a two-game suspension, Kareem Jackson found himself in a situation that has defined his season. Opposing player in front of him. Split-second decision. Chance to make a big play.
The Broncos safety lowered his head and right shoulder and slammed into Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs. The hit jarred Dobbs as linebacker Baron Browning stripped the ball loose. Jackson was not penalized on the play, but the NFL, as expected, is reviewing the hit for a possible fine and additional discipline.
"I saw the same articles that you guys saw. You pay attention to that. I talked to Kareem this morning," coach Sean Payton said Monday morning. "There’s nothing you can do but wait and see where it goes."
Denver7 spoke with Jackson on Sunday night, and he was admittedly unsure what the league office might do. However, Jackson’s past is working against him. He has been fined four times, ejected twice vs. the Commanders and Packers, and suspended for two games this season, totaling $89,670 in fines and $279,000 in salary. Teammates welcomed Jackson back this week. He is a captain, and few players are more respected in the locker room than the 35-year-old, 14-year veteran.
When Denver7 talked to Jackson last Tuesday upon his return, he admitted he would need to try to conform to the league’s rules regarding unnecessary roughness.
“I probably have to adjust it a little bit. As far as the tackling, lowering the target, I will try my best to do that. I definitely don’t want to be in this situation again,” Jackson said. “As far as going forward, I am sure there will be bang-bang plays. For me, it’s about staying on the field and not having to go through this.”
Jackson, however, finds himself in this uncomfortable spot, at the mercy of the league.
Based on what NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan said when issuing Jackson’s previous discipline, it would not be a surprise if the former Alabama star is suspended again. Jackson was disciplined after a hit on the Packers tight end Luke Musgrave with Runyan writing that the safety violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 (b)(1) which states that “it is a foul if a player forcibly hits the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player's neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him. … You delivered a forceful blow to the head/neck area of a defenseless receiver, when you had the time and space to avoid such contact. You could have made contact with your opponent within the rules, yet you chose not to.”
If that same reasoning is applied on the Dobbs’ hit Jackson could be banned again, his style deemed too dangerous. Jackson’s return was well-timed because his replacement P.J. Locke sat out against Minnesota with a sprained left ankle. Rookie safety JL Skinner was active for the first time vs. the Vikings, playing on special teams. Locke might be able to return this week. It would still represent a loss as Jackson played and meshed well with a defense that has created 12 takeaways the past three games, the most in a three-game stretch by the Broncos since 1997.
“It means a lot. A lot. It’s a testament to the guys in this locker room. It’s about getting better every week and the guys have done that. I was able to come back this week and be a part of it. Jumping in and being away from it for a little bit, coming back this week and feeling the energy from the guys, I was excited about it. I think every day is about getting better and we’ve done that. And for us as a crew we have to continue to do that.”