Packers offer Jackson clean slate
Cut by Saints, tackle makes quick move to Green Bay
By ARNIE STAPLETON
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GREEN BAY, Wis. - A man's reputation usually precedes him, and that certainly was the case Wednesday in Green Bay, where the Packers eagerly awaited the arrival of massive defensive tackle Grady Jackson.
"I know he's a very, very large man," center Mike Flanagan said, recalling last season, when the Packers hand their hands full with Jackson and Norman Hand in a loss at New Orleans.
Jackson is even bigger than Flanagan remembered, too. He's said to be pushing 370 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, about 30 more than a year ago.
The Packers signed the talented but troubled lineman late Tuesday after he was cut by the Saints, who were unhappy with his weight and his attitude.
But Jackson didn't arrive in Green Bay early enough to practice or attend meetings.
Coach Mike Sherman said he's counting on Jackson practicing today and playing against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
The Packers' defensive line has been their biggest disappointment. Rod Walker, who needs surgery on his left shoulder and right knee, joined Joe Johnson and James Lee on injured reserve this week.
So the Packers were thrilled to sign the seventh-year veteran who spent five years in Oakland and registered 85 tackles and nine sacks in 1ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ seasons with the Saints.
Sherman said he envisions playing sumo-sized nose tackle Gilbert Brown and Jackson together at times.
"That'd probably be good," Brown said. "Two big ol' dudes in there like that. I know I'm cuter, though."
Defensive tackle Larry Smith, who joined the Packers last month after several seasons in Jacksonville, said Jackson should fit right in.
"I don't know anything about Grady," Smith said. "But, being a professional, I'm sure he can pick up anything he has to."
Jackson was suspended without pay for failing to report to the team hotel for a Saints home game against Carolina two weeks ago. He didn't play in that game because of an injury to the small finger of his left hand, which required surgery to reattach a ligament.
Saints coach Jim Haslett, who was miffed that Jackson skipped offseason workouts in New Orleans because of personal problems, was upset that Jackson chose to sit out against the Panthers rather than play with the injury.
Sherman said Jackson's injured finger won't be a bother in Green Bay.
"He was ready to play this week for the Saints if he was still on their roster," Sherman said. "And he assures me that will not be an issue."
Another Saints castoff, cornerback Michael Hawthorne, was excited about Jackson's signing.
"You're going to love his game," Hawthorne said. "For a big man, he can play."
Hawthorne said he knew from personal experience that Jackson wasn't the villain the Saints contended he was.
"Everybody has problems in New Orleans," Hawthorne said. "If you're an average person, a pretty nice guy, the Saints have problems with you. It's like they accept bad seeds. The problems stem with them.
"One thing you can't do is control or talk to a person like they're beneath the earth. You don't get anything accomplished by talking negative to a person all the time.
"Let me just tell you this: We got a steal in Grady Jackson."
It\'s not every day that an NFL team sets free a space-eating, penetrating defensive tackle in the middle of the season. But the Saints simply had tired of Grady Jackson, which is why he was waived this week. The Packers claimed Jackson on Tuesday, and he should be able to help their run defense. Green Bay be warned: He comes with plenty of baggage, and not just the kind around his midsection. The Saints simply tired of Jackson\'s laziness and felt he was becoming a bad influence on rookie defensive tackle Jonathan Sullivan. In addition, Jackson also infuriated the team with the way he handled a broken pinky two weeks ago. Jackson did not show up at the team\'s facility the Monday after injuring the finger, then blew off a scheduled surgery -- with the surgical team in place -- the following day. He did have surgery on that Wednesday, but by then it was too late for him to play in that week\'s game. Deactivated, he asked that he not be forced to go to the team hotel that Saturday. Told he had to be there, he simply left at 11 p.m., after bed check. That led to a one-game suspension and ultimately helped lead to the release. Jackson also was overweight, but instead of paying fines for being so many pounds over his required weight, he simply did not show up for weigh-ins. Why? He figured out it was cheaper to pay the fine for not weighing in than it was to pay the money for being as far over his playing weight as he was. Jackson weighed 370 when he waived and has fought that problem for most of his career. Jackson did play well at times, but the Saints felt it best to let him go. Sometimes, those tough decisions end up being moves that help a young team mature. With Sullivan coming off a dominating game last week against Tampa Bay, and Kenny Smith more than capable in the middle, New Orleans feels it\'s good enough inside. When defensive end Darren Howard returns in a couple of weeks, end Willie Whitehead, who had three sacks last week against Tampa Bay, will move inside and get some work as well.
Knowing some more background to this it seems like a better move.
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