Bears notebook: Eddie Jackson embracing leadership role

“They got rid of everybody,” the two-time Pro Bowl safety said, referring to the veterans he once looked to — Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan. Now he’s the leader setting an example for rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.

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Bears safety Eddie Jackson (39, returning a fumble fro a touchdown against the Panthers in 2017) was up to his old tricks at practice Thursday.

Jeff Haynes, AP Photos

Safety Eddie Jackson intercepted a tipped pass and took it to the house in Thursday’s practice. But the celebration wasn’t like in his heyday of 2017-18. That old gang is all but gone.

In fact, with Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan no longer with the Bears and Roquan Smith on the physically unable to perform list as a contract holdout, Jackson is the only starter remaining from the Bears’ vaunted 2018 defense under Vic Fangio that lead the NFL in scoring defense and takeaways.

He used to look to them. Now he’s the leader, with everyone looking to him.

“Oh, man, when they got rid of everybody — that was the turning point,” Jackson said. “Mack was my boy. Akiem and Danny — those were my guys. But now it’s like you turn around and you look — I’m one of those [veteran] guys in the room now.”

Not only that, but the secondary is younger than ever, with two rookies, cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker, joining third-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

“These younger guys coming in, they’re gonna look at you” Jackson said. “Coach Dray [safeties coach Andre Curtis], he told me, ‘Listen baby, you ready to lead? Because we’re ready to follow. You gotta lead from the front, doing all the right things even when no one’s looking.”

Roquan still on PUP

Smith again was on the sidelines Thursday with a presumed phantom injury as a contract holdout. He’s unofficially day-to-day.

“It’s no secret what Roquan means to this team, especially this defense,” said Jackson, who had an interception off a tipped ball in practice and took it to the house. “He’s the heart and soul of this defense. His presence is always missed when he’s not there.”

The benefit of the new-fangled “hold-in” is that Smith is on the field with his team. He’s not a malcontent from a team standpoint, just a business one.

“Him just being around, still able to talk to guys, coach up guys —that’s something a lot of people respect him for,” Jackson said. “We’re waiting on him to get back. We miss him. But we’re gonna do what we gotta do right now, so when he comes back — that missing piece — everything is in place.”

Wanny’s back

Speaking of all the pieces being in place, former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, ever popular as an analyst both locally and nationally, was an on-field visitor at training camp Thursday.

Former Bears quarterback Jim Miller, a Sirius XM NFL radio host and analyst for Fox Sports Chicago, also was at practice Thursday. Miller went 11-2 as a Bears starting quarterback in 2001.

Practice highlights

Justin Fields threw deep completions to tight end Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney, but it was a tough day for the offense, with false starts and dropped passes marring the day.

Cornerback Lamar Jackson, a 2020 undrafted free agent, intercepted Trevor Siemian and also had a nifty pass break-up. Gordon is getting a lot of work at nickel back, with Kindle Vildor playing the outside.

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