Commentary: Jackson's demands are weighty issue

Grady Jackson wants a new contract. For what? To hire a personal trainer?

With the possible exception of Nick Barnett and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Jackson is the best player on one of the league's worst defenses. In new defensive coordinator Jim Bates' scheme, Jackson is vital. Bates requires big defensive tackles to tie up blockers and free up linebackers like Barnett to make one tackle after another.

Of course, Jackson's new agent, Drew Rosenhaus (big surprise) knows all of this. Give Rosenhaus credit for knowing when to pick his battles. The Packers need Jackson and Javon Walker, so Rosenhaus senses he has more than just a little bit of leverage as he levies his new-contract-or-else ultimatums.

In Jackson's case, it's certainly a weighty issue. The Packers list Jackson at 340 pounds. What, is that as high as the Packers' scale goes? There's no proof that Jackson's battle with the bulge is a contributor to his injury problems, but it's hardly a stretch to say his girth puts undue stress on his knees.

He was injured early in the season opener against Carolina with a dislocated kneecap and wound up missing most of that game as well as the next five games. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jackson played only 38 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Even in the 10 games he played, by my analysis Jackson only participated in about 60 percent of the defensive snaps.

That makes Jackson a part-time player, and a player the team can't rely on to contribute consistently.

Part-time players should be paid as such.

No doubt, Rosenhaus' No. 1 point on contention will be the three-year, $13 million contract Minnesota handed to run-stuffing defensive tackle Pat Williams — compared to the two-year, $2.3 million deal Jackson inked a year ago. Both players are adept at clogging the middle. Both are difference makers, even if it doesn't show in the statistics.

With Williams, Buffalo's run defense ranked third in the league in yards allowed per rush last season.

With Jackson in the lineup, the Packers are 15-6. Without him, they are a woeful 2-4. During his early-season absence last season, the Packers lost to Chicago, Indianapolis, the Giants and Tennessee in succession. Against Chicago, Thomas Jones rushed for 152 yards. Against the Giants, Tiki Barber rushed for 182 yards. Against Tennessee, Chris Brown rushed for 148 yards. His signing helped save the 2003 season.

A big difference between Williams and Jackson, however, is health. Williams hasn't missed a game in three seasons and five of the last six seasons. He weighs "only" 310 pounds. Jackson probably outweighs Williams by 50 pounds, regardless of what the Packers' numerically challenged scale states. He has had knee surgery after the last two seasons.

If I'm general manager Ted Thompson, I tell Jackson to get his butt into shape and come to training camp ready to be a defensive wrecking ball. After, say, a half-dozen games, if Jackson is a terror, give him a new contract. If not, then tough luck.

No doubt, Jackson is a vital cog to the Packers' defense. But if the Packers give into the demands of the creaky-kneed Jackson, they won't have a leg to stand on when the rest of the team lines up outside Thompson's door looking for more money.

Lawrence is a longtime Packers fan, former football coach and writer from Green Bay who will be a regular contributor to Send comments to

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