‘No more years to waste’ as Bears safety Eddie Jackson eyes another comeback

Jackson’s situation could’ve gone either way as the Bears looked to fix their financial situation last year, but he has become an indispensable piece of their defense.

SHARE ‘No more years to waste’ as Bears safety Eddie Jackson eyes another comeback
Bears safety Eddie Jackson had four interceptions last season, second-most of his career.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson had four interceptions last season, second-most of his career.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

There isn’t much in spring practices that offers a glimpse into how the Bears’ 2023 season will go, but the sight of safety Eddie Jackson planting, darting and racing around the secondary at full speed the last couple of weeks has been meaningful.

The Bears are betting on a lot of wild cards this year, and Jackson’s ability to bounce back from a Lisfranc injury in his left foot is one of the most pivotal. The fact he’s zipping through reps as though the injury never happened is promising for his comeback.

He ended last season wearing a protective boot and needed a scooter to get around the locker room when he visited teammates after games. After two months of being immobilized and all the rehab, he has a renewed enthusiasm.

“It just makes you grateful for the little things — being able to go out there and practice, being able to go out there and run and give it all you’ve got,” he said Tuesday.

The timing is good for both him and the Bears. They’re banking on him as a key part of their secondary, which could be their strongest unit. And he’s out to show he’s far from winding down as he approaches 30.

“These years, we can’t waste them,” he said. “I’ve got to go out there and play the best ball that I can and go out there and make plays. We’ve got a young team . . . those guys, they look at me. It’s Year 7 for me, so no more years to waste.”

Jackson presented general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus with one of their most intriguing decisions when they took over last year: Was he one of the remnants of the Ryan Pace era worth saving? He was 28 at the time and three seasons removed from being an All-Pro. Amid Poles’ massive financial cleanup, he also carried the team’s second-biggest salary-cap hit at $15.1 million. He’s their second-priciest player again this season at $17.1 million and would make $18.1 million in 2024, the end of his deal.

Poles could have done a lot with that cap space, but at his best, Jackson is a player who makes people think of Hall of Famer Ed Reed.

And that’s what the Bears got last season until Jackson got hurt. Ahead of the injury, he was motivated to prove himself anew, and the Bears freed him up to play his style of safety by drafting a complementary piece in Jaquan Brisker. They counted on Jackson to reassert himself as a game-wrecker, and he did with three interceptions and a forced fumble in the first four games. He added another interception in Week 8 against the Cowboys to give him four — his second-best season in that department — before the Bears’ defense disintegrated and he went on injured reserve in November. He led the team in tackles at the time and was on track for a Pro Bowl selection.

The arrival of Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams was refreshing for Jackson, and before the injury, he was a revelation for them. It’s easy to sell Eberflus’ hard-nosed vision to rookies and journeymen, but it helped tremendously that someone with Jackson’s stature bought into it emphatically so early. It’s clear he has become one of Eberflus’ favorite players.

“He works his tail off,” Eberflus said. “He’s worked his way back into position from that injury, and it wasn’t easy. His love of football helped him to do it.

“The way he works and the experience he brings to the table for our entire secondary — he’s that one guy in there that has that experience and brings that knowhow. We really love where Eddie is right now.”

The Latest
Witnesses at federal court hearings worried that including traffic stops in a consent decree originally issued in 2019 to reform the Chicago Police Department would actually slow attempts to curb the controversial practice.
British costume designer Gabriella Slade won a Tony Award in 2022 for her work.
With move from Chicago to southwest suburban Bridgeview, Michael “Riot Mike” Petryshyn looks forward to “going somewhere where people want you.”
With words by John Dudley and art by Scott Gray, “Big Shoulders” explores the journeys of several characters in Chicago who have big aspirations. The “urban fantasy” will feature aliens, dragons and immortal beings — but also plenty of Chicago history.