Jackson Joins Packers At Last

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For Grady Jackson, it's a chance to start fresh.

For the Green Bay Packers, it's an opportunity to boost an injury-depleted defensive line.

And for both, it could be a case of better late than never.

Thursday afternoon, Jackson took part in his first practice as a member of the Packers, having been claimed off waivers Tuesday evening.

In doing so, he landed back in the same town that he'd almost called home prior to the 2002 season, when as a free agent he turned down a contract offer from the Packers and signed instead with the New Orleans Saints -- the same team that waived him earlier this week.

"This is a great opportunity for me, a new chapter in my life," Jackson said Thursday, standing in the middle of the Packers locker room. "I think (Green Bay) is where I should have played a couple years ago."

If Wisconsin was closer to Jackson's offseason home of Mississippi, he probably would have.

Instead, after five seasons on the West Coast with the Oakland Raiders, Jackson used free agency as a ticket south in 2002.

"I talked to my family and they wanted me to be close, because I'd been in California for five years," Jackson said. "So I chose (New Orleans). But now I wish I would have chose (Green Bay), because it's a great place here and a great community."

Jackson brings with him to Green Bay a reputation for durability. From 2000-02, he played every regular season game but one.

In seven games with the Saints this season, Jackson picked up 3.5 sacks among his 30 tackles.

The latter number would be good enough to lead the Packers defensive line this season, bettering Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's 29 total tackles. But Jackson plans to leave his Saints experience behind him, both the good and the bad.

"I'm trying to focus on being a Packer now," Jackson said. "Just close (the Saints) chapter to try and start a new one."

That means distancing himself from reports that the Saints were frustrated with his playing weight and suspended him for breaking team curfew.

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said this week that he can provide no guarantees Jackson will abide by Packers team rules, but for now the seventh-year veteran will be given a fresh start and the benefit of the doubt.

"I don't have any assurances other than the man himself coming in here and doing it the way we want it done," Sherman said. "He's going to have to be accountable to that.

"We're in a situation where we need some help with our defensive line and I think he can afford us that opportunity."

With Rod Walker now on injured reserved with shoulder and knee injuries, Jackson will likely fill in at nose tackle behind starter Gilbert Brown.

There are situations however in which Sherman would consider playing Brown and Jackson side by side at tackle.

Either spot is fine by Jackson, who said he's eager to make his Packers debut Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Wherever they put me," Jackson said, "that's where I go and make plays."

This time, in a Packers uniform.

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