TAMPA — Vincent Jackson was named the Bucs' man of the year for the second straight season for his help with military families. He even published a book he wrote, Danny Dogtags, about the challenges children face while relatives are deployed in military service.
The 10th-year receiver also has been a good soldier on the field, never complaining when rookie Mike Evans started getting more passes aimed in his direction. Jackson has provided a great example on and off the field for Evans to follow.
Barring an injury, Jackson and Evans have a chance to put their names into the Bucs' record book as the only tandem to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Jackson, who leads the club with 69 catches, needs 66 yards to reach that milestone for the sixth time in his career. Evans needs 42 to reach 1,000. He leads the team with 11 touchdowns.
"For me personally, I still love this game, and I'm still having some fun despite the (Bucs' 2-12) record," Jackson said. "It's a privilege to play with these other men in this locker room and to work for a coach like Lovie Smith and this organization, which has always been good to me.
"I take a lot of pride in that. I take a lot of pride in the game. I have a lot of respect for the game and playing the right way and representing myself and the Bucs."
In 2012, Jackson had a career year, with 1,384 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Mike Williams fell 4 yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving that season.
Jackson turns 32 in January, and several teams expressed an interest in acquiring him at the trading deadline. He has two years left on a contract that pays him more than $9.7 million per season.
There was a time Jackson, soured by a contract holdout in San Diego, almost seemed like a mercenary — have hands, will travel. But his intangibles have outweighed his talent, which is saying something. He is a giver, on the field, in the classroom and to the community.
It remains to be seen if the team will want to continue with Jackson at that salary. His age is a concern, but his production has been steady. Jackson has said he would prefer to remain in Tampa Bay.
"I don't think it's any harder for me than anybody else. It's a disappointing season, for sure," Jackson said. "We all put in a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of effort, just like 31 other teams in this league. Nothing is guaranteed to us, and I think that's been the biggest lesson."
Can the Bucs turn it around soon?
"I believe it's coming," Jackson said. "I hope I'm still here."
HE'S THE MAN-KINS: You can debate who the Bucs' most disappointing player is this season, but the most disappointed has to be G Logan Mankins.
Traded a week before the start of the regular season by the Patriots, Mankins has been a fixture in the postseason. He opted to be dealt rather than take a pay cut, and you will never hear him say a disparaging word about anyone. Smith called him the consummate pro.
"You're right, he's not used to it," Smith said. "He has won every year he's been in the league, so it's been an adjustment for him.
"I think one of the ways you would describe him is he's the ultimate professional. He's the same guy (whether) getting ready for the playoffs right now or on a 2-12 football team that's not playing for an awful lot.
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"When you have a guy with character like that, it doesn't matter what the score is, what your record is, you get the same thing each day. … I can't tell you what all he's done for our football team just from that."