ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Broncos safety Kareem Jackson is trying to figure out how to make his bang-bang hits a little cleaner.
Because right now, his borderline blasts are resulting in big blows to his bank account. His reputation, too.
Jackson has been fined a total of $89,670 for four illegal hits this season and his recent two-game suspension cost him $279,000 in salary. He's vowing to adjust his aim a little lower on pass catchers. Even then, he can’t guarantee anything.
“For me as a player, as an instinctive player, I’m going to always be in those situations,” said Jackson, who joined the Broncos (4-5) at practice this week and may return to the starting lineup Sunday night against Minnesota (6-4) with P.J. Locke sidelined by a sprained ankle. “Because my preparation and my instincts are going to put me in those situations.”
The 35-year-old Jackson tried to seek some clarity from the league on his hits, but still feels puzzled. He's third on the team with 42 tackles.
“A lot of gray area when it comes to the rules that's been put in place, in my opinion,” Jackson said. “Nothing’s black and white.
“I’m unsure as to how I play the game going forward. Because like I said, I’m still going to be in those situations two-to-three times every week. So, for me, just try to lower my target and don’t end up in the same situation.”
Jackson was suspended four games after a hit on Green Bay tight end Luke Musgrave, which led to Jackson's ejection from the game. On appeal, it was reduced to two games.
In Week 2 of the season, Jackson was also ejected for an illegal hit on Commanders tight end Logan Thomas in the end zone. That came a week after Jackson’s big hit on Raiders receiver Jakobi Meyers.
Justin Simmons recently came to the defense of Jackson, saying his fellow safety isn't a dirty player.
“I wouldn’t be half the player I am if it wasn’t for Kareem and the knowledge both on and off the field that he’s bestowed on me,” Simmons said. "And never at any point in time when I’m watching the tape of him, or when I’m watching tape with him, has he ever come across as anything close to being a dirty player.”
For Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, it boils down to one thing with Jackson — finding that balance, “between playing clean, and being aggressive and playing his game within the rules, and also playing free.”
While away from the team on suspension, Jackson said he trained and spent time with his kids. In his absence, the team beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at home, followed by Josh Allen and the Bills on the road.
“Just been extremely excited and happy for those guys and their success,” Jackson said of a Broncos team that's won three straight. “Just hoping to come back and be a part of it — be a piece of the puzzle."
Jackson said he had a chat upon his return with Broncos coach Sean Payton, who got right to the point.
“He’s like, ‘We’re rolling, don’t you come in and mess it up,'" Jackson said. “Sean’s been great. He’s been real supportive through it all.”
This weekend, Jackson and the Broncos face a Vikings team that's won five straight after a 1-4 start.
“It’s a big one for us this week,” said Jackson, whose 200 games played rank as the most among active NFL safeties. “Just excited about all the opportunities that we have."
Notes: Offensive tackle Garett Bolles was limited in practice Friday with an ankle ailment. Running back Samaje Perine (ankle) and guard Ben Powers (foot) were also limited. ... Jerry Jeudy (hip) was a full participant in practice Friday after being limited the day before.
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