BEREA, Ohio — D'Qwell Jackson couldn't hold back tears as he talked about his five-year $42.5 million contract extension.
"I can't thank (Mike Holmgren) enough for the opportunity," Jackson said nodding toward Holmgren. "It's been a blessing. I can't express it in words. I'm trying to bottle it all in and live within the moment. With the contract a lot is expected but it's important for me to lead in the locker room."
Holmgren was in attendance along with team owner Randy Lerner in announcing the signing.
"It is my privilege to bring to you our starting middle linebacker, a contract extension to be with the Cleveland Browns for many years," Holmgren said. "You know how important he is to this team and how important he is for this team for years to come. He was our No. one priority for us this off-season."
Jackson signed a one-year contract for the 2011 season after playing just six games in 2009 and 2010 after suffering back-to-back pectoral muscle tears. Jackson returned last season and led the team in tackles with 158 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also had an interception.
"It's a big deal—not just the deal—but having him with us is a big deal for our football team," Holmgren said. "In building the foundation, every successful team needs the component of leadership and we have one of the pieces of the puzzle in place."
Jackson admitted he wondered if he would be play again after missing nearly two seasons.
"It's definitely a blessing as I sit here today," he said. "I remember a year ago rehabbing and doing the necessary things I needed to do to get ready to play. Now, I'm sitting here trying to lead this team.
"To come back from that injury that was my plan of action. Last year was a great feeling to play 16 games and I matured in how to take care of my body."
Jackson said the decision to re-sign with the Browns was an easy one.
"I thought this was a fairly easy decision," he said. "I know today is my day, but I have to give credit to the guys that I play with. It was a group, collective effort. I'm happy here to be talking about the extension, but I want to win games."
Jackson, 28, said he hopes to finish his career with the Browns.
"It's a feat that guys around my age are not able to say that," he said. "For me being here, it's important to prove anybody wrong. I've never been dealt a great hand. I've always had a chip on my shoulder.
"But, it's not about me anymore," he said. "It's about the guys we have in the building and can we take a step forward."
Jackson said winning on the field starts now.
"We're only going to be as good as what we put into it individually," he said. "It's a collective effort and with everyone on the same page our goal should be the number one defense out there."
He said he wants to be a Brown when the team is on top.
"This fan base has been great," he said. "They love you when you win and let you know when you lose.
"I think we have a stable of players that can win games and when we do make the next step I want to be a part of it."
Heckert Update: Holmgren gave an update on GM Tom Heckert and said he experienced some discomfort a couple of weeks ago and was evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic. A blockage was found and Heckert underwent a surgical procedure to correct it, thus missing the combine. He said he didn't suffer a heart attack.
Holmgren said Heckert will be in the office Tuesday and will gradually work his way back into the routine. Holmgren said that Heckert, 43, preferred to keep the matter private, but there had been misinformation out there and felt it needed to be cleared up.
Holmgren said that Heckert would be an "integral part of the draft process."
Holmgren refused to discuss any other topics regarding the combine or personnel issues such as the status of RB Peyton Hillis or K Phil Dawson.
Effect on Hillis/Dawson: Holmgren did not take any questions during Jackson's press conference, but the domino effect of Jackson's signing allows the Browns to either franchise RB Peyton Hillis or K Phil Dawson if neither can be signed. Dawson was franchised last year and Pat Shurmur said the Browns are willing to use the franchise tag again this year, if necessary.