After ‘keeping that mental part up,’ Eddie Jackson returns to field

The Bears still have a miles-long injury report, but at least they’re getting one former Pro Bowl player back.

SHARE After ‘keeping that mental part up,’ Eddie Jackson returns to field

Bears safety Eddie Jackson has started 62 of 65 games since being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

David Zalubowski/AP Photos

It was easy to forget that safety Eddie Jackson started training camp on the reserve/non-football injury list. While his teammates practiced the last two weeks, Jackson — who hurt his hamstring doing what he called “three-a-days” in Florida during the summer — paced the sideline holding a card with defensive calls and formations. He encouraged teammates and chatted up coaches.

“He gets to see all parts of what they’re doing,” coach Matt Nagy said.

Jackson, who has missed only two starts in four years, was trying to keep busy. 

“Keeping that mental part up,” he said. “Being on top of the plays, the keys, certain formations, so when you go in there, you don’t miss a beat.

“It’s hard for some guys to adjust being out and not being able to be out there and go through the motions with the team to see the right adjustments. So me just having the card on the side, knowing what plays we’re in — knowing our keys and tips and different tendencies, just staying fresh in my brain.” 

On Tuesday, the card tricks ended. The Bears activated Jackson minutes before he participated in a light practice at Halas Hall.

“This offseason was a real grind for me,” said Jackson, who didn’t have an interception last season in the first year of a four-year, $58.4 million deal. “I feel like I probably worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in the offseason.”

The injury never concerned him. The Bears, he said, were just being cautious. 

Jackson’s absence was made easier by the starter by his side. For only the second time in five seasons, the Bears’ strong safety will be the same as it was the year before. The Bears re-signed Tashaun Gipson to a one-year deal in the offseason.

“People don’t know how big of a deal that is — it’s huge,” Jackson said. “Because sometimes you come in with new guys — guys not used to playing this, not used to playing that — so you’ve got to build that chemistry all over again, see what he likes, what he doesn’t like. 

“Me and ‘Gip,’ we go off each other. We’ve already got the fit to each other, with the disguise purposes, or when it’s time for us to pass something off.”

It’s unclear exactly how early — or often — Jackson will test the hamstring against the Dolphins, who begin a two-day joint practice Wednesday at Halas Hall before playing a preseason game Saturday at Soldier Field. 

“We’ve been going at it with each other for so long,” Jackson said. “Just sitting out there on the sidelines and watching those guys compete, it just makes you want to get back out there. . . . The sense of urgency. Like, ‘Man, I’ve got to get it back.’ 

“But now we have a different team coming in here. Everybody’s together. It’s us against them, no more blue against white.”

Jackson will look different this year. After the NFL relaxed its uniform rules, Jackson switched his jersey from No. 39 to No. 4, his favorite. He wore the number in college. 

He hopes the changes don’t stop there. New coordinator Sean Desai’s focus on takeaways in camp resonates with Jackson, who had eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries in his first 30 games and two of each in 32 games since.

He took his first step toward turning that around Tuesday.

“There’s nothing like being out there on the field,” he said. “And building that team camaraderie.”

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