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Good read on D'Qwell Jackson


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he'll be a keystone of the team for years to come. a good pickup by the Browns in every sense of the way.









"The man who led the NFL in tackles last season is underappreciated, undersized and, in a relative sense, grossly underpaid.



So what does Cleveland Browns inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson(notes) plan to do in response?



“We’ve got a new group of coaches, and they’ve identified a few players they might want to build around – so what I have to do is go out and prove I’m worthy of a new contract,” Jackson said in a recent phone conversation. “I’m not making a lot of noise, and I don’t want to stress out and worry about things I can’t control. All I can do is work my tail off and play as hard as I can, and if I get a new deal I’ll be the happiest guy on this earth.”



I have to admit, Jackson’s quote makes me kind of happy, too. Time after time, I hear from frustrated readers (and coaches, general managers and owners) who get their thong panties in a bunch whenever an NFL player lobbies for a bigger salary before his contract is up.



Now here’s a budding star entering his fourth season who’s due to make $640,000 in the final year of his rookie deal, and his approach is to bite down hard on his mouthpiece and pummel the dude with the ball? Try getting bitter about that.



(And how refreshing is it when the most self-important person in the column is the dude writing it? OK, maybe that’s not such a novelty.)



While I’m not prone to getting indignant over an athlete’s salary demands – it’s simply a matter of leverage, on both sides, so why get emotional about it? – I do have my trigger points, and as you might have noticed I tend to vent on occasion.



Today, however, I’m not getting angry. Call it Prozac Friday, or simply the product of a nice, long offseason, but as training camps approach (the Browns’ rookies report today, veterans a week later) I’m busting out more smiley faces than a pair of eighth-grade girls in a two-hour IM session.



Jackson, 25, is the kind of guy who makes football difficult to predict and fun to watch. Barely six feet, bowlegged and virtually anonymous, he raised his level of play at a time when many of his peers were ducking for cover.



Last season the Browns, who had narrowly missed the playoffs in 2007, were a trendy pick to make a run at an AFC title, largely because of a high-powered offense featuring quarterback Derek Anderson(notes), wideout Braylon Edwards(notes) and tight end Kellen Winslow(notes).



Things turned ugly early, and by midseason the franchise was in disarray. Cleveland went an inconceivable 24 quarters without an offensive touchdown to close the season and finished 4-12, and head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage feuded – and both were later fired.



Through it all, Jackson kept playing hard. His 154 tackles (a team stat) made him the unofficial league leader; he also had six passes defensed, three interceptions and two sacks.



“Our offense had a problem throwing the ball when we needed to, so we couldn’t let everything go to [expletive],” Jackson explained. “As a defense, we had to show some pride. This was probably the closest group I’ve been around, but once the talk about [Crennel] not being here started, it became harder to focus and things just snowballed.”



Now Eric Mangini is the man in charge, and though his abrasive leadership style has already alienated some people in the organization, Jackson isn’t one of the people complaining.



“They don’t owe me anything,” Jackson said. “They have enough on their hands right now without having to worry about my situation. I understand that. I have to play the waiting game. But all throughout my career, even going back to high school, I’ve considered myself an underdog. So I’ll just keep scrapping.”



And I’ll just keep smiling – at least for the rest of this column. Here are some other potential feel-good stories that could come out of training camp"

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