FOXBOROUGH – For JC Jackson, the past two weeks have been a reality check.
After being benched for multiple series against Washington, the Patriots cornerback stayed at home while the team traveled to Germany. After watching the Patriots lose in Frankfurt, Jackson said he learned his lesson, apologized for his mistakes, and is even more appreciative of his coach, Bill Belichick.
He was designated on the injury report as being out for ‘personal reasons’ but on Tuesday, Jackson told MassLive that he missed multiple “bed checks” at the Patriots team hotel on Saturday night before their matchup with the Commanders. That led to Jackson not starting the next day and ultimately, kept him home when the Patriots traveled to Germany.
Now, Jackson is back with the Patriots and said he’s sorry for his mistakes.
“What happened was I didn’t travel with the team to Germany. It was a punishment on my behalf and that’s what it was,” Jackson told MassLive. “I didn’t take it any other way than, this is punishment and I hope you learn from it and grow from this mistake I made.
“And I’m here now, so hopefully that won’t happen again. It was all my fault. I made a mistake. That’s what you’re going to get from Bill (Belichick). That’s one thing about him. He’s going to discipline no matter who you are.”
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After breaking into the NFL with the Patriots in 2018, Jackson developed into an All-Pro cornerback in New England. That led to him signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2022. His time out west was complicated. Jackson played in five games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. This year, he played in two games with the Chargers and was benched before being traded back to the Patriots on Oct. 5.
At first, it looked like Jackson was back home with the Patriots. He started three straight games against Las Vegas, Buffalo and Miami. However, Jackson admitted he made a mistake on Nov. 4, the day before the team’s matchup with the Commanders when he didn’t go to the team hotel.
“I was kind of late to bed check. They checked my room. I wasn’t there at the time,” Jackson said. “That’s what it was. It was nothing major. I wasn’t out that night doing anything stupid. It was just I wasn’t where I was supposed to be on time. Little mistakes, man. I’m a professional I know better than that. I’ve been around. I’ve never missed a bed check. Things happen. If I knew what that was going to cause, I would have never done it.”
Jackson admitted it was a tough moment, but has taken full accountability. Now, the 28-year-old cornerback said he not only wants to get his career back on track, but hopes to never leave New England.
“Reality check – I’m not bigger than the team. I’m not bigger than nobody in here,” Jackson said. “This is a team sport and I have to do whatever everybody else is doing. I want to be a part of the team. This is my team. This is home for me, man. This is where I want to be. I don’t want to go nowhere else. I want to finish my career here also. I’ve just got to continue to build that leadership each and every day. It just stinks for me – I kind of played a lot of football. I know what to do at this point.”
Jackson had off-field issues before coming into the NFL. His first five years in the league with the Patriots, however, went smoothly. Jackson admitted that the past two years have taken a toll on his mental health. He deals with real-life struggles like anyone else and when things didn’t go well in Los Angeles, he felt a heavy burden.
After the Patriots went to Germany, Jackson said he reset himself and feels like he’s on a better track.
“I would say mentally I’m getting better. The past year and a half, two years, has been up and down for me mentally,” Jackson said. “I’m working. I’m kind of settled in now – finding my peace and got me a home now in Boston. Things are going smoothly for me. It’s not a good year. It’s not the year I expected, but mentally I’m doing better.
“You all see us in those little, small helmets, but as soon as we walk out these doors, we’re dealing with reality and what a normal person has to deal with.”
When it comes to his relationship with the team, Jackson said he loves playing for Belichick and was able to rebound after his mistake because ultimately, he feels like he’s a good fit for the Patriots.
“That’s what I feel – this is where I belong. A lot of people come here and can’t handle Bill,” Jackson said. “He finds those guys like me. Not that he makes you, but he finds those guys and I’m one of those guys he found – undrafted came in, bought into the program, and got paid. It’s him. He’s a part of it. I don’t want to play for nobody else.”