INDIANAPOLIS – Standing at his locker Wednesday, D’Qwell Jackson observed the scene during his eighth week as a Colt.
“If you have a chance to join a great organization like this, I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Jackson when asked if Indianapolis were a destination location in the NFL. “(For) guys around the league, that’s what the reputation is.
“If you do have a chance to come here, I would advise anybody to take full advantage of it.”
That was year one of the Ryan Grigson-Chuck Pagano regime, one that has helped Indianapolis earn a 23-11 record in two seasons.
Pagano is a one-man pep rally whose genuine approach is a huge attraction.
“That’s what makes him good, he doesn’t have to recruit,” said Jackson. “He’s worked with a ton of guys on defense who are Hall-of-Famers. He’s well-respected around the league from a player’s standpoint.
“Everyone I spoke to in the process of free agency, the guys who weren’t here anymore reached out to me. They said this was a great organization to play for, ‘You probably won’t leave the building (without signing).’ That’s just what happened.”
Redding followed Pagano from Baltimore, and Jones and Jackson this year represent more pieces as Indianapolis firms up its unit.
“These guys have been part of this defense now for a few years. I’m sort of the Lone Ranger,” said Jackson, who had 891 tackles and 11.5 sacks in starting 96-of-97 games with Cleveland since 2006. “I have to pick up speed, pick up the defense quickly.
“I’ve had my fair share of defensive coordinators and defenses, so I’m used to it. I have a good group of guys in the (meeting) room who help me pick up speed.”
Jackson has leveled at least 100 ballcarriers in six different seasons, but he enjoyed one winning record while noticing the Colts were 85-43 with a world title, two Super Bowl appearances and just one losing year over that span.
After five coordinators and four head coaches, Jackson wanted to join “a first-class organization.”
“One of my main goals when I got released from the Browns was to join an organization that was going to be around,” said Jackson. “I wanted to distance myself as much as I could away from anything that could remotely remind me of the Cleveland situation. That’s without trying to disrespect anyone who’s ever coached in the Cleveland organization.
“I wanted to be somewhere where I knew the coach was going to be around and there wasn’t a lot of turnover. Stability, needless to say stability (was important).”
Jackson’s last Cleveland coach, Rob Chudzinski, is now on Pagano’s staff. It was Pagano’s 2012 fight with leukemia and how the Colts responded that put Indianapolis on Jackson’s radar screen.
“If you’re a fan of this game, you definitely were following what was happening two years ago,” said Jackson. “I think everyone admired that, and I was looking forward to joining it when I had the opportunity.”
Pagano has instilled a unity of purpose in Indianapolis that includes the message that players should play for each other.
How Jackson landed his familiar jersey number of 52 shows the unity in Indianapolis.
“I had respect for D’Qwell. When he signed, I was one of the first guys he got in contact with. Not even about the jersey, just because he recognized the situation at hand,” said
“I had known about him ever since Maryland. I took a visit there before going to LSU. I knew that had been his number since college. Last year was my first year with it. I had a lot of respect for an eight-year guy, and I’m a team guy. I just did it.
“It’s like Chuck’s message to serve somebody. I know the number means a lot more to him than it does me. It wasn’t much of a big decision to me.”
Said Jackson, “Shep was easy. We made things work out. He was open about it and that was it.”
Conditioning gives way to OTAs and to training camp. Jackson is bonding, learning and loving his new environment.
“It was as quick transition. I’m focusing on learning as much as I can so when we start I’m not second-guessing.”