In the hustle and bustle of a postgame locker room, Eddie Jackson could really use a horn on the scooter he’s using to get around.
The Chicago Bears safety’s left foot is in a boot after suffering a Lisfranc ligament injury in the Nov. 27 loss to the New York Jets. Jackson was slowly navigating his way through the crowded Soldier Field locker room Sunday after the Bears’ 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, eager to commiserate with teammates just as he did after the loss to the Green Bay Packers before the bye week.
“I feel like it is important,” said Jackson, who watched the last two games from a suite. “I feel like the guys like my feedback, coming in and telling them something. Just always congratulate them. They have been playing well, honestly. But it is important not just for them, but for me too.”
Jackson’s experience is not uncommon for players who suffer season-ending injuries. They miss the action on the field, and just as much — if not more — they miss the camaraderie that comes with the job. When players are rehabilitating, there can be a strong feeling of detachment. You’re in the building but you don’t feel like you’re on the team all the time.
Jackson joined fellow safety Jaquan Brisker and linebacker Sterling Weatherford on Monday at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The appearance was in conjunction with Campbell’s “Chunky Sacks Hunger” program, and the more mobile Brisker and Weatherford helped bag and box food in the warehouse before the event ended.
Jackson got good news regarding his injury after visiting foot specialist Robert Anderson in Green Bay, learning he will not require surgery. Months of rehab are ahead, though, for the veteran free safety who enjoyed a bounce-back season in the first year with coach Matt Eberflus.
Despite not playing this month, Jackson is second on the team with 80 tackles and 59 solos and has four interceptions, six pass deflections and two forced fumbles. It was a critical season for Jackson, who turned 29 this month.
His contract has no guaranteed money remaining and he is scheduled to earn $13.1 million next season. That shouldn’t be a problem for general manager Ryan Poles considering he will have more than $100 million in salary-cap space.
The Bears appreciate how Jackson embraced a leadership role on a youthful roster, and he’s back to doing what got him paid in the first place: making plays. Had he not recaptured his previous form, it would have been easy for the Bears to move on from the two-time Pro Bowl selection.
“It’s out of my control, but I am definitely excited for what the future holds for us,” Jackson said. “We know we are a young team. You can kind of see everything coming together. You just see the type of pieces we have, and it’s like, man, next year is going to be special.
“That is something I would love to be a part of, continue to build with these guys and just see where it takes us. The future is looking bright for sure.”
The NFLPA has made an organized effort to lobby against artificial playing surfaces this season with the primary complaint that they lead to more non-contact injuries. Players have been particularly harsh when it comes to the FieldTurf surface at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where Jackson was hurt. For what it’s worth, that surface is expected to be changed in the offseason.
“When you get hurt, you want to blame it on this, you want to blame it on that,” said Jackson, who crumpled to the turf without being contacted when he came up in pass coverage. “I heard about it. I know it sucks. I was just doing regular things that I do every week, every day. Break in. Just a simple plant. Just kind of got stuck in the turf or whatever the case may be.
“But you’ve got to move forward from it. It sucks. I hate it. Me missing a game — I don’t care if I come back — one game (stinks).”
Jackson has an MRI scheduled for the end of the month and is several weeks from being able to begin rehab. In his idle time, since he isn’t having to dial in on preparation for the Buffalo Bills this week, he can imagine what next year will be like for a defense that’s expected to undergo significant changes with the offense suddenly able to put up points.
“We used to always pray, you know, ‘Put up 20-some points,’” Jackson said. “Now, we put up 20-some, 30 points. It’s like, ‘Man, this is what we dreamed about.’
“Now it’s time for us on defense to go capitalize off that. We’ve just got to stop letting Justin (Fields) do everything. Defense, we’ve got to step up, go out there and make plays, hold people to less points.”
He will be around as much as possible during the final three weeks, rolling up on teammates with his leg protected in the scooter. Beep! Beep! Here comes Jackson, eager to be with his guys and to get rolling into 2023.