Every Green Bay Packers player will have a lot of motivation on Sunday as the team tries for its first win, but defensive tackle Grady Jackson may have a little extra as he faces the New Orleans Saints, the team that waived him in 2003.
"It's pretty cool," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Jacskon's tenure with the New Orleans Saints lasted one-and-a half seasons.
"It was good and bad," he said.
The Saints signed Jackson in 2002 following one of his best seasons. He had a career-high 69 tackles while starting every game for the Oakland Raiders.
Jackson, who signed with the Saints because of the team's close proximity to his home and family in Madison, Miss., had a successful first season. He started 15 games and recorded 55 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks -- impressive totals for an interior player.
His second season with the Saints became less enjoyable. The Saints drafted defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan with the sixth pick in the draft. Jackson said the team wanted him to mentor the rookie rather than focus on his own play.
"That ain't my job," Jackson said. "My job is to get out there and play."
He has found a much nicer fit with the Packers organization where he can serve both roles -- an integral player and a leader for a young Packers defensive line. After Jackson, a nine-year veteran, third-year player Kenny Peterson is the second longest tenured interior player.
"He's a great leader," second-year defensive tackle Donnell Washington said.
For advice on fundamentals or personal issues, the young defensive tackles can turn to Jackson. The graybeard of a young interior line, he relies on lessons he learned from Russell Maryland as a fledgling defender with the Raiders in the late 1990s.
"I'm a leader and I have to show them by example and help on the field." Jackson said. "They're willing listeners."
Jackson remains thankful to the Packers organization for taking a chance on him after the Saints waived him on Nov. 3, 2003. Jackson played the final eight games of that year for Green Bay and helped fortify their run defense.
"I appreciate the Packers organization," he said.
Although Jackson did not like his role with the Saints, he remains friends with several of the players. He stays in regular contact with running back Deuce McAllister and wide receiver Joe Horn and will seek out both before the game.
"I was close to the whole team," Jackson said.
Despite that closeness Jackson will take on the role of spy this week. He will provide tips to his current teammates on how the Saints defend certain plays.
"I've been talking to Brett [Favre] about some of the defensive calls," he said. "It's the same offense, defense when I was there. So I know it pretty good."
The Packers are just glad Jackson's on their side now.