Gone is the fanfare that once accompanied his every move after New England traded up in the second round to draft him three years ago, but Chad Jackson believes his days as a Patriot are far from over.
In fact, the 6-1, 215-pound receiver is every bit as imposing a figure on the football field as he was when the Patriots traded up in the second round to grab him back in 2006. And now just might be the time for him to show that he has the skills to go with the frame.
"It's an important year for me. This is what they drafted me for. So I'm going to come out here and show the coaches what I can do and show the fans what I can do and help out this team any way I can," Jackson said following a morning passing camp workout at Gillette Stadium.
"It feels good to be out here with the guys finally. Last year I was going through the injury and stuff and this year is more of a control year and a settle down year for me. Everything is coming along easier for me right now and all I'm doing right now is concentrating on getting the plays down and getting on the same page with the quarterbacks and the coaches."
Jackson is healthy for the first time since before training camp of his rookie season and his movements on the field reflect that. Last season he never saw a single practice rep until the regular season was well underway because of a torn ACL suffered covering a kick in the 2006 AFC title game in Indy. That came a year after nagging hamstring problems limited him in his first season.
Injuries and inconsistency have led to a delay in his development while causing him to appear in just 14 games and being limited to 13 receptions (all in 2006) in two seasons in New England.
Year 3 after two mostly unproductive campaigns by definition makes 2008 vital for Jackson, but the departure of Donte' Stallworth has also added to its significance.
"How can you not? Donte's gone and there's a big spot open like everyone's saying," Jackson openly admitted when asked if he felt there was an opportunity to carve out a role. "Hopefully I can work hard and do everything I need to do to get that spot."
Jackson spent Tuesday's practice running outside opposite Randy Moss while Jabar Gaffney operated out of the slot. It should be noted that Wes Welker was not on hand for the voluntary workout and penciling in Jackson as a starter would have to be considered premature. But watching the smooth strides and strong hands that Jackson displayed seemed to make it a real possibility that he's part of the three-wide receiver base offense.
"I feel like I can do a lot. I can catch the ball, run after the catch ... I feel like I can do a lot of things with the ball," Jackson said. "This year these coaches are going to give me the plays and the opportunities to make that happen. They haven't told me anything right now. I'm just learning my playbook and once I do that everything else will come along."