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saint5221 08-21-2003 07:25 AM

Jackson feels fit, not fat

Jackson feels fit, not fat

The Associated Press
8/20/03 8:13 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The heat at the New Orleans Saints training camp, the two-a-day practices and the sessions in the weight room have taken their toll.

What they haven't taken is any weight off defensive tackle Grady Jackson. He hit camp at 343 pounds, he'll leave camp at that same weight.

"I haven't lost any more weight, but I think you need to have some weight for camp," Jackson said. "I'll handle it this season."

Jackson was criticized for packing on the pounds last season when he, Norman Hand and Martin Chase were known as the "Lunch Bunch." The super-sized defensive linemen were supposed to plug up the middle of the field and stop opponent's running games. The coaches felt they became too big for the job, however. Jackson's weight topped 360 pounds.

The Saints used their top draft pick this spring to get Johnathan Sullivan, a defensive tackle from Georgia. Then they traded Hand. Chase was traded Wednesday.

Jackson, meanwhile, has regained his starting spot and had an outstanding camp.

"He's had two great games," defensive line coach Sam Clancy said. "He's had a good camp. He's in the best shape he's been in and he looks really good."

Although Jackson has not lost weight, he believes he has improved his conditioning.

"I spend about half an hour on the bike of the treadmill everyday," Jackson said. "I'm going to try to lose some more, but I feel good like this."

That's fine with him, Clancy said. He doesn't have a problem with Jackson at 343 pounds, especially the way he's played in the two preseason games.

"I really was surprised at how good a shape he's in," Clancy said. "If he can stay in for 35 plays without taking a blow, which he did, he's going to be fine."

Jackson's pride was wounded by the demotion from starter and the criticism, Clancy said. That's provided the motivation for camp.

"Grady is a talented football player who can do almost anything he wants," coach Jim Haslett said. "I think his mind and will needs to take over. When he puts his mind to something, then he can usually do it. If grady doesn't want to be blocked in the National Football League, then I don't think there is anyone that can block him. He has to play with technique and he has to want that."

The difference between a stellar career and an average one is Jackson's desire to play well and stay in shape to do it, Haslett believes.

Wounding his pride may have stirred him up this summer, but Haslett admits he's not sure how long that will last.

"I don't know what motivates Grady," Haslett said. "Grady is sometimes a hard one to figure out. I know that he has been outstanding since he has been here. He is working hard on and off the field. As long as he does that, then Grady has a chance to be something special."

Jackson acknowledges that his natural ability will carry him a long way. It's something he's always had, something he still relies on.

"I'm not surprised to be back in starting," Jackson said, smiling. "I'm like ice. I always rise to the top."

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