Brandon Jackson runs back a kickoff return for a touchdown during Saturday's Packers Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Brandon Jackson was one of the last players to return to the locker room after the Packers’ Family Night scrimmage on Saturday at Lambeau Field.
He stayed on the field in his uniform to enjoy the fireworks show with his family. Earlier in the evening, it was Jackson who produced some fireworks when he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Yes, it was just a glorified practice, and no, Jackson wasn’t facing the Packers’ No. 1 kickoff team when he burst down the right sideline and took off for the races. Still, Jackson sent a message that. if needed, he can do the job in the absence of the injured Will Blackmon, and do it well.
“Yes, I would love to be the guy back there,” Jackson said. “It’s fun, exciting. When you get me out in open space, I’m very exciting, so I love it.”
Jackson is aware the Packers haven’t produced a kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2000 season. He would like to be the man who breaks the drought.
Blackmon is considered the Packers’ top return man, although his specialty is punt runbacks. He is coming off knee surgery, and the Packers are being cautious with him. Blackmon sat out the scrimmage as well as Friday’s practice to take some pressure off his knee joint, according to coach Mike McCarthy, but is expected back soon.
The question is, will the kickoff return job be available when Blackmon returns, based on Jackson’s stellar effort?
“That’s to be determined,” McCarthy said. “Brandon knows how the kickoff return needs to be run. It’s a little change of philosophy from what we’ve done in the past. He demonstrated tonight that he can do it the right way. He definitely (will) have an opportunity for that.”
Jackson has done it all during the first week of training camp. Not only can he return kicks, but he lined up with the Packers’ No. 1 kickoff team earlier in the week. He is fast becoming one of the most valuable special teams players.
Normally a running back isn’t the most likely candidate to pull down duty on the kickoff team, also known as the suicide squad.
How does a running back learn to tackle?
Jackson said he played cornerback and linebacker in high school, in addition to his primary job as a running back.
Special teams coach Shawn Slocum has been impressed with Jackson’s ability to find the ball in coverage.
“Going out there making a tackle when you’re a running back, that’s exciting to me,” Jackson said.
Prior to getting drafted by the Packers in the second round in 2007, the last time Jackson played on the kickoff team was in the ninth grade. But he is willing to do whatever the team asks, including risking life and limb running full speed down the field in search of a ball carrier.
“There’s longevity in this league if you can play more than one position, doing more than one thing,” Jackson said.
“I’m short and fast and slippery.”
Jackson said he would love to get more carries as a halfback, but he’s not complaining about his backup role behind Ryan Grant. Jackson is an excellent pass blocker and serves as the Packers’ third-down back.
When asked if there’s anything he can’t do on the football field, Jackson said with a laugh: “Play quarterback. That’s about it. I give it up to Aaron Rodgers.”
Any other job, however, Jackson is willing and seemingly able to do.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.