Jamaal Jackson knows his future is not with the Eagles

Jamaal Jackson , who lost his starting center job to Jason Kelce, has continued to be a team-first kind of player.
Jamaal Jackson , who lost his starting center job to Jason Kelce, has continued to be a team-first kind of player. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: January 09, 2012

For nine years, Jamaal Jackson has been a dedicated professional for the Eagles, but there appears to be little opportunity left for the veteran in Philadelphia.

Jackson, who lost his starting job in 2011 after working to recover from two injury-marred years, refused to criticize the Eagles, but he and his agent have made it clear that they expect him to be on the market looking for work elsewhere this offseason.

"My idea is just to go forward and try to find a job," Jackson said after the Eagles' final game of the season, though he noted that he still has two years left on his contract, so his fate remains in the team's hands.

Still, as a 31-year-old who hardly played in 2011, it seems unlikely that the Eagles will keep Jackson next season. They will need a backup for new starting center Jason Kelce, but likely one who is less expensive.

Jackson's agent, J.R. Rickert, said he expects the player to be released once the new NFL league year begins in March, though he noted that the team has to make that decision.

"At the end of the day, I think Jamaal just wants to contribute. He's looking for an opportunity if, in fact, he's released," Rickert said. "Once he's released, I'll work actively to pursue our options around the league at center and guard."

Jackson is the longest-tenured Eagle and the last player on the roster with any ties to their 2004-05 Super Bowl team. He joined the team in 2003 as an undrafted free agent and worked his way into the starting lineup by 2005, starting 71 straight games in a stretch that ended after the 15th game of the 2009 season, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Jackson worked hard to return in time for the 2010 season opener only to tear his triceps in the first half of the first game, ending another season just as it began.

Jackson entered training camp in 2011 looking to return to his starting role, but was soon replaced by Kelce, a sixth-round pick who better fit the scheme installed by new offensive line coach Howard Mudd.

"Jamaal's a true professional for sure," said tackle Todd Herremans, one of Jackson's closest friends on the team. "The way things went down was definitely hard for him."

Jackson won't deny that, but while other players spoke out for being dangled as trade bait or underpaid, the center was quiet during, and even after, the season.

"I could have handled it differently, I could have been a distraction, I could have been like, 'Get me out of here,' not being a team guy," Jackson said. "But that's not me."

Given his first chance by Andy Reid, Jackson declined to criticize the coach's choice.

"You've got to respect the coach's decision, and I went in knowing that going in from Day 1," he said. "I was behind him 100 percent, because I'm a team guy. Whatever helps the team win, I'm all for it."

This season, at least, Jackson was with the team, dressing on game days and on the bench, at least able to help the young offensive line with his experience.

"It was harder the years I was hurt, just seeing the guys go out there without me," Jackson said.

Despite his age - Jackson will be 32 by the time training camps open - he has spent only 41/2 seasons as a regular NFL player, so has less wear and tear on his body. Smart and physical, he could offer help for a team that needs to improve its offensive line play.

"I'll just try to go until the wheels fall off," Jackson said. "Sometimes it takes taking a backup role to humble you a little bit so you can go back to your roots and grind even harder this offseason."


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.

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