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pakowitz 05-05-2003 10:23 AM

Grady Jackson aka Iceman

Monday May 05, 2003

By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer

The jersey is standard-issue black and gold. The helmet features the traditional fleur-de-lis on the side. But Grady Jackson doesn't feel like one of the Saints these days.

"I feel like an outcast," Jackson said Sunday, after sweating through the fifth practice of the weekend minicamp.

The veteran defensive tackle was eager to shower and head home to Jackson, Miss. His haste had little to do with the near-record heat and humidity that swamped the city.

After being demoted to second team and being publicly criticized by Coach Jim Haslett for reporting to camp at 366 pounds, Jackson said he no longer feels like a part of the team he joined last season as a prized free agent.

"I didn't lose my job, it was given away," Jackson said.

"I feel like a lone tree in the pasture, like I'm on an island. I've got to fight back and swim to shore. I'll get there. I've always been a fighter. This is just a little adversity that I've got to overcome."

Jackson's problems began last month when he failed to report to the team's offseason conditioning program. Wide receiver Joe Horn, who is boycotting the team's minicamp in a contract dispute, and several of the newly signed free agents also missed the voluntary, 16-week program.

But Haslett said the other veterans, except Horn, received permission for their absences while completing plans to relocate to New Orleans.

When Saints officials and coaches called him to check on his whereabouts, Jackson exacerbated the problem by failing to return messages, Haslett said.

Shortly thereafter, the Saints demoted Jackson, who made 55 tackles and was second on the team with 5.5 sacks last season, and promoted third-year lineman Kenny Smith to the starting tackle spot opposite rookie Johnathan Sullivan.

A day after Jackson reported to camp at 366 pounds on Thursday night, Haslett criticized him for his weight and "unprofessional" actions.

"Nobody's given up on Grady," Haslett said Saturday. "We've just got to make sure that Grady is going to get into the program. His weight is inexcusable for a professional athlete. If we can get him into the program, with the talent he has, I think he could play well."

Jackson admitted that he can play better than he did in 2002. But he believes he and former teammate Norman Hand are being unfairly blamed for the team's defensive struggles last season. Hand was traded to Seattle on April 27, one day after the Saints selected Georgia defensive tackle Sullivan in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The Saints ranked No. 27 in the league in total defense and No. 19 in rushing defense last season. They allowed an average of 4.5 yards per rushing attempt.

"They're trying to make me a scapegoat for how we played last season," Jackson said. "This is a team game. It's not all our fault. They're trying to blame one or two individuals to make themselves look good."

"I could have had a lot more tackles but a lot of other guys could have played better, too," he said. "We all had a bad year. The whole team didn't get the job done."

Jackson said he weighed about 340 pounds during his five-year tenure with the Oakland Raiders. He's confident he can reach that weight by the start of training camp July 26.

"The weight ain't a problem," said Jackson, who said he has hired a personal chef and nutritionist in Mississippi to prepare his daily meals. "A lot of people wait late to train. I've still got all of July and August. It only counts when the season opens. If I come to camp at 330 or 335 (pounds), what are they going to say?"

As of Sunday afternoon, Jackson said no one from the Saints organization had talked to him about his demotion or his weight. He said it's his responsibility to initiate the conversation.

"They see me every day, they know where my locker is," Jackson said. "If they've got something to say to me, then put a note in my locker, talk to me man-to-man. I haven't talked to anyone."

Jackson has one year remaining on the two-year, $3.275 million contract he signed with the Saints in April 2002. He is scheduled to receive a $1 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus this season.

"I've always been a fighter," Jackson said. "I feel like all odds are against me. I'll do whatever I've got to do. I'm like ice. I always float to the top."

lumm0x 05-05-2003 03:00 PM

Grady Jackson aka Iceman
Make me puke!!!

rusta 05-05-2003 03:05 PM

Grady Jackson aka Iceman
yeah, not the attitude i want to hear, if we didn\'t need him for some depth i would say trade his ass too if that\'s the attitude he\'s bringing to this team

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