ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The NFL suspended Broncos safety Kareem Jackson for two games, deeming him too dangerous after repeated hits to opponents' head and neck areas.
The ban left teammates furious. They felt he was given a four-game suspension initially, so he would have to serve at least two on appeal. And it left Jackson feeling helpless. He was left to watch the Broncos’ victories over the Chiefs and Bills, unable to be in the team facility for three weeks counting the bye.
The chaotic ending to Monday's game against the Bills had Jackson losing fingernails like the rest of Broncos Country. Wil Lutz missed the game-winner but then converted after the refs penalized Buffalo for having 12 men on the field.
“I was kind of all over the place. It was kind of tough watching. But at the same time, the guys played a hell of a game defensively, creating four turnovers and getting the walk-off like that. They are 2-0 since I wasn’t there, and I am extremely happy for those guys and how they have been playing,” Jackson told Denver7. “To come back and be part of it now, I can’t wait.”
The timing of Jackson’s return is ideal. P.J. Locke, his replacement, sprained his left ankle against Buffalo. He tried to jog it off but was unable to return. Locke left the locker room in a boot. He said he would be “all right,” but an ankle sprain can be difficult to return from without a week's rest.
Jackson, 35, is the team’s oldest and arguably most respected player. He is serving as a captain for a second straight season and is often cited by teammates for his leadership on and off the field.
“I am very amped. Excited. I can’t wait to see those guys. I am so anxious to be part of it,” said Jackson, who spent Tuesday night donating 200-holiday boxes, including turkeys, at the Aurora Community Center.
When the league announced Jackson’s suspension following the Packers’ win, teammates came to his defense. Star free safety Justin Simmons remained the most vocal, explaining that players are put in a tough position with split-second decisions on tackles and crimes off the field are often not punished as severely as personal fouls. The support did not go unnoticed by Jackson.
“I am all about brotherhood and having real relationships, not just work relationships,” Jackson said. “I think that’s just a testament to us spending time together and creating a brotherhood. For those guys to have my back, it really means a lot.”
Jackson has been fined four times this season, ejected twice vs. the Commanders and Packers, and suspended for two games, totaling $89,670 in fines and $279,000 in salary. Jackson expresses frustration with the officiating of NFL games on social media, but he recognizes that he must make changes in his play to avoid further discipline, as his team needs him.
“I will probably have to adjust it a little bit. As far as the tackling, lowering the target, I will try my best to do that. I definitely don’t want to be in this situation again,” Jackson said. “As far as going forward, I am sure I will be in bang-bang plays. For me, it’s about staying on the field and not having to go through this. As a team, everything is in front of us. Getting three in a row is huge in this league. Where we are as a team right now, we are right in the thick of it. Everything is in front of us. I can’t wait.”