D’Qwell Jackson understands what fellow inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman is going through in dealing with the NFL’s business side.
Freeman returned to the Indianapolis Colts this week after missing the first week of offseason training activities. The fourth-year pro signed his restricted free-agent tender of $2.35 million for this season, but Freeman wants a new multi-year contract.
Jackson, 31, became a free agent last offseason after eight seasons with the Cleveland Browns and signed a four-year, $22-million deal with $10.13 million guaranteed to join the Colts.
Freeman, 28, didn’t have much of an option after no other NFL team made him an offer. He’s made 366 tackles in three seasons since arriving from the Canadian Football League
“The business side of it is not always the prettiest,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I knew it was going to be figured out at some point. It’s great to have him back to talk football, to pick up where we left off, work on things that can help us, help each other, things that I can do to help him and vice versa. It’s good to have all the guys in the building talking football and seeing how we can improve.”
Jackson credits Freeman with the transition from Cleveland. Freeman had led the Colts in tackles the previous two seasons. Jackson led the team with 138 tackles, which ranked sixth in the league last season.
“When you sign up for this job, you have to know at some point that the honeymoon phase is over,” Jackson said. “I call the honeymoon phase your rookie year, your first couple years in the league. Now, if you’re able to play for a lengthy time, that’s when the business side starts to come into play. That’s where all of us, we have to take it another step. We have to really dive in and understand the business of football and how it works, so you can better understand it.
“There’s nothing that happens in this business, in my opinion, that’s personal. It’s all business, and that’s the way it goes. I have a motto, as long as I can play 16 games, as long as I have a job, that’s what’s most important. Yeah, you would like to be at certain places, but a lot of times it doesn’t work out that way. You take the good with the bad, but talking about ‘Free’ (Freeman), I’m happy to have him back.”
Jackson said the Colts are excited to be back to work and set their minds for the grind that leads up to the regular season. A 45-7 loss at New England in the AFC Championship Game is still a vivid memory and a constant reminder of the challenge ahead.
“Where we left off was a bad taste in our mouths,” he said. “Nothing’s changed. We’re still talking same goals, same mindset. We’ve had some great additions, some veteran, proven guys. We’re looking to pick up where we left off.”
He acknowledged the Colts’ defense needs to improve from last season. The Patriots rushed for 177 yards in the playoff rout.
“It’s very young right now, but there’s a lot of tape from last year that we can watch that we can all improve on,” Jackson said. “That’s what we’re doing right now. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.
“Definitely the one thing, if we’re talking defensively, just consistently stopping the run. We’ve proven that we could stop it, we’ve just got to do a better job of consistently doing it week-in and week-out. That’s what this team means right now. Get back in our film study, talking to guys, just understanding how we can get better, how we can help the guy next to us and obviously help the new guys that we’ve picked up.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.