Jackson signs franchise tag with Chargers

Vincent Jackson appreciates what boxers go through, having done
workouts for that sport during the 41/2 months of the NFL
lockout.

“It was exhausting,” Jackson said Friday, three hours after
signing a franchise tag with the San Diego Chargers for nearly $11
million. “It was a new workout for me. It’s a great workout.”

Jackson, coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2009, missed last
year’s training camp and most of the season because of a salary
dispute. But for all the sparring between his agents and Chargers
management, he said there is no bad blood between him and the
club.

“When I came in this afternoon, it was like a reunion with your
family,” Jackson said in his first public comments since January.
“Guys welcomed me with open arms.”

Among the well-wishers, he said, were Chargers president Dean
Spanos and general manager A.J. Smith, who were on the other end of
last year’s nasty contract dispute.

“We never had any confrontations, anything personal about it,”
Jackson said. “It is a business. Things can be shot back and forth.
But honestly I’ve never had a problem with anybody in this
building. I feel like this is home.”

During the lockout, Jackson was one of 10 named plaintiffs in
the Brady V. NFL antitrust suit filed against club owners. He said
it was “kind of a shock” to learn of media accounts that depicted
him as a lead plaintiff who could hold up the next labor pact.

“I’m not sure where that came from,” Jackson said. “There was
just a group of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and I was one of many
plaintiffs, and we were all in the pursuit of the same thing.”

Jackson said he supports the players approving the new CBA.

The contractual matters haven’t distracted him, he said, but
he’s eager to begin practice Aug. 4, the starting date for certain
players in his contract class.

“I had a great offseason, I’m feeling healthy, ready to go, and
I’m really excited about this year,” he said. “Having a full year
under our belt as a team, I think we’re going to do some big
things.”

Last year, Jackson didn’t play until the 11th game and then was
shut down by a calf strain after two plays. Over the final four
games, he had 14 catches, including a 58-yarder for a touchdown.
But the Chargers ended up 9-7, costing them a fifth consecutive AFC
West title.

Jackson said he didn’t allow himself to wonder whether the
Chargers would have reached the playoffs he had been with them all
season.

“I couldn’t have done that,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to
sleep at night. All I could do last year was just continue to train
hard, stay ready and whenever that time was for me to step on the
field, make sure that I was ready to go.”

Jackson, 27, enters his seventh NFL season since the Chargers
drafted him in 2005 but still hasn’t reached unrestricted free
agency. Other receivers who went into free agency with comparable
career statistics, or less, scored big multiyear deals in the last
two years.

“I feel like I’ve been on one contract,” he said.

After the 2009 season, Jackson lost a chance to become an
unrestricted free agent because of the unique labor rules governing
the 2010 season.

Two DUI arrests on his record didn’t help his chances of getting
a long-term deal with the Chargers, who tendered him an offer of
$3.268 million for 2010. The tender was cut to $662,000 when he
didn’t sign by June 15, 2010. Jackson ended up making $280,823 last
season in prorated salary.

Last February, the Chargers designated Jackson as their
franchise player, two weeks before the lockout began.

He was due to become an unrestricted free agent when the owners
opted out of the collective bargaining agreement in March.

During the lockout, he caught passes from Chargers quarterback
Philip Rivers at a school in San Diego.

On Friday, fresh off a honeymoon in Fiji with his wife Lindsey,
the 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver appeared even fitter than in his
Pro Bowl season. He signed his franchise tender at the first moment
possible.

He said, “3:01 p.m. came, and I was in the office and putting
ink to paper. I wanted to get all of that stuff behind us, and we
get to focus on football.”

Jackson said he is grateful to have spent his whole career with
a playoff contender, and “absolutely” would be interested into
doing a long-term deal with the Chargers.