TAMPA — The last time it happened, Tanard Jackson was remorseful for hurting his teammates. This time, his career could suffer more damage.
On Wednesday the NFL suspended the safety indefinitely for violating its substance-abuse policy. The suspension began immediately, and he is not eligible for reinstatement until Sept. 22, 2011.
The league's action means it's the second time Jackson, 25, has tested positive for a banned substance since entering the NFL's intervention program. (The NFL discloses neither when players enter its program nor the substance they took.) Last season, he was suspended for the first four games.
"Tanard is a talented young man who we hope is able to use this year to put his troubles behind him and, ultimately, return a stronger man and player," general manager Mark Dominik said. "It's up to Tanard whether the team and our fans eventually realize his considerable promise. Obviously, the coaches, fans and all the players are disappointed."
Bucs coach Raheem Morris was unavailable for comment.
Jackson, who did not return messages, practiced Wednesday and was informed of the suspension about two hours later.
The suspension also means Jackson won't be eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season as scheduled because he won't have earned a year of service.
Dominik said the Bucs weren't informed that Jackson violated the substance-abuse policy this year until Wednesday afternoon.
When asked during training camp about speculation that he had tested positive for a banned substance and was appealing, Jackson declined to comment.
A year ago upon returning to the Bucs, Jackson said he had learned his lesson.
"Every Sunday watching the game was the low point for me," Jackson said then. "Seeing these guys, who I went to training camp and preseason with and the guys I've played with the past few years, seeing those guys and me being on the couch watching them, that was the low point. Every Sunday. Being a starter on this defense — not only that, coming back and being looked upon as a leader on the defense with experience — I definitely felt I let my team down.
"That's the thing I'm disappointed in myself the most. I disappointed myself. But your actions affect others around you, and that's the thing that hit home with me. Just being away for those four weeks and having the time to reflect on the things I've done and how I hurt myself, how I hurt the people around me such as my teammates, coaches, people who had trust in me … just taking that time to reflect, that's what I've really been addressing."
It's the second time this season the Bucs have lost a member of their secondary to suspension.
Cornerback Aqib Talib missed the first game and was docked two game checks for violating the NFL's player-conduct policy related to an arrest on charges of assaulting a cab driver. The league still is reviewing a violation of the terms of that suspension. Talib attended the 17-14 win over the Browns. Suspended players are not allowed to attend games, even as spectators.
Jackson's suspension will be a big loss for the Bucs, who are third in the NFL at 10.5 points allowed per game.
Jackson has started every game he has been eligible for since being drafted out of Syracuse in the fourth round in 2007. And despite missing those four games, he tied for first on the team last season with five interceptions.
In two games this season, Jackson is fourth on the club with 13 tackles, including two for loss, and has one quarterback pressure and a forced fumble.
With Jackson out, the Bucs will be forced to turn to Sabby Piscitelli, Corey Lynch or seventh-round pick Cody Grimm. The Bucs kept five safeties, one more than most teams. Lynch, signed off of the Bengals' practice squad last season, intercepted two passes in the final preseason game but has been primarily a special teams player throughout his career.
Piscitelli lost his job to free agent Sean Jones after an unproductive 2009 season in which he started 16 games and recorded only two interceptions and three passes defensed.
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com.