Kareem Jackson returns ‘home’ to Houston, looking to put suspensions behind him


HOUSTON (AP) — Kareem Jackson is back with the Houston Texans, a place the veteran safety calls home.

Jackson was claimed off waivers from the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, reuniting him with the team where he spent his first nine seasons.

“The way the season’s gone for me, emotionally kind of all over the place,” he said Wednesday after his first practice. “It’s always great to come home. And for me as a player, I think all players want to be wanted. So, for the Texans to claim me, it’s a full circle moment.”

Jackson has played just eight games this year in a season where he has been fined five times, ejected twice and suspended twice for a total of six games over a series of illegal hits.

His first suspension came for an illegal hit on Packers tight end Luke Musgrave on Oct. 22. It was a four-game suspension but was knocked down to two games on appeal. But in his first game back, a hit he delivered to Minnesota quarterback Joshua Dobbs landed him a four-game suspension.

As he prepares for his first game since that hit on Nov. 19 on Sunday when Houston hosts Tennessee, Jackson still doesn’t understand why he’s been punished so much this season.

“I don’t know if I’m misunderstood or it’s just being singled out or what the case may be,” he said. “The same style of football is being played all around the league. You can watch Thursdays, Mondays, Sundays and I’m not the only guy playing the physical style of style of play, it’s happening all around the league. Am I being the one, that’s being crucified for it? Yeah, and I don’t know why.”

His suspensions have cost him $839,000 in game checks and he was fined a total of $89,670, although the league rescinded his largest fine — $43,709 for an unflagged hit on Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco in October.

Jackson was asked if he’ll play differently moving forward to avoid another fine or suspension.

“It’s kind of hard to be honest,” he said. “I was told it’s my job to protect the offensive guy. It’s a tough situation to be in when you’re trying to make plays and protect yourself. I don’t see how you can do all three.”

“So, for me it’s just all about flying around and just playing football because at the end of the day it’s football, it’s a physical sport, stuff is going to happen out there,” he continued. “I could try my best not to hit guys in the head and neck … just try to lower my strike zone if I can.”

Houston needed depth at safety after Jimmie Ward was injured on Sunday and placed on injured reserve this week. Jackson, who was a first-round pick by the Texans in 2010, played cornerback his entire time in Houston before transitioning to safety when he signed with Denver in 2019.

Coach DeMeco Ryans, who played with Jackson in Houston for two seasons, called Jackson a “great teammate” and said the Texans aren’t concerned about his past suspensions.

“Kareem has made a lot of plays in this league,” Ryans said. “Like all of us he has things to clean up technique-wise and make better decisions there. But that didn’t slow down the decision of bringing him in.”

Jackson has kept a close eye on the Texans since Ryans was hired and is thrilled to be playing for his former teammate. Although that’s not something he’s going to broadcast in the locker room.

“It’s kind of funny. I don’t think any of the guys in here realize I played with him,” the 35-year-old said. “So, I’m going to keep that a secret.”

Unlike most guys this time of year, Jackson said he feels fresh after sitting out so much this season. He’s hoping to provide veteran leadership to Houston’s young secondary and finish his difficult season on a high note as the Texans fight for a playoff spot.

“It’s all about putting (the suspensions) behind me and getting back into ball, getting back into the rhythm of things,” he said. “Obviously being here, now it’s all about how I can help this team.”

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