Revenge game with Chargers? It's not personal for Bucs' Jackson
Shortly after Vincent Jackson signed as a free agent with the Buccaneers, he surveyed the schedule and wondered how high his emotions might run the second weekend in November when he faced his former San Diego Chargers teammates at Raymond James Stadium.
"You know what? Looking at the schedule earlier in the year, I thought there might be (emotions),'' said Jackson, who spent seven seasons with the Chargers. "I was curious about how I was going to feel this week. But honestly, it really hasn't changed. I've approached this week the same way, looking at them on film. I'm not really seeing faces as far as guys I used to play with, I'm really seeing numbers and trying to break them down as far as what their defensive tendencies have done because they've got a lot of new faces over there, guys that I don't know. And they've got a new coaching staff over there. So I've just focused in on just keeping it as business-like as it's always been each and every week. You're playing a team you haven't played this year and I'm excited to play them.''
Jackson, 29, has helped change the fortunes of the Bucs (4-4), who have won three of their last four games. He's averaging a league-leading and career best 22.9 yards per catch with 31 receptions for 710 yards and six touchdowns.
"For me, my role is do what I've always done,'' said Jackson, who signed a 5-year, $55.55-million contract with the Bucs in March. "I love this game, I have so much fun out there. And obviously, guys kind of feed off the things that I do. I try to be a professional at all times, make sure if I can bring some guys up around me, get the Mike Williams and get the Tiquan Underwoods and break down some extra film with them, when I get Josh to a moment by himself, talk to him about some coverages and some tendencies and things I think work, you know, just sharing knowlege. We call it being farmers. You can't grow good corn if your neighbors don't grow good corn. I want everybody around me to be successful.''
Jackson's performance has impacted the Bucs offense. Williams, who has benefitted from coverage rotating toward Jackson, has returned to his rookie form and has five touchdowns while averaging 17.4 yards per catch. Quarterback Josh Freeman is white hot, having thrown 11 touchdowns and only one interception in his last four games. Finally, rookie Doug Martin has emerged as the league's third-leading rusher, setting a club-record 251 yards rushing and four touchdowns last week at Oakland.
While Jackson still has plenty of friends on the Chargers' team, but he won't be paying attention to the faces inside the helmets.
"You know, again, to me it's numbers out there,'' Jackson said. "It's going to be 23 (Quentin Jammer), and number 20 (Antoine Cason) and number 32 (Eric Weddle) and all those guys...Those are the guys lining up and they're the ones we're trying to attack and beat. Again, there's not going to be any personal one-on-one matchups. Whoever lines up in front of me, that's going to be the person I have to beat.''
Does Jackson believe he'll feel different once he is on the field and sees the lightning bolts on the Chargers helmets Sunday?
"I don't believe it will, I honestly don't believe it will,'' Jackson said. "The most important thing for me is what we do as a team. I have nothing personal going on with those guys. I mean, I'm a Tampa Bay Buccaneer now. That's been my focus and it's about us getting a win. That's the only thing that matters to me.''