I asked Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan about the team's safety position a couple of times this offseason -- once during minicamp and once during training camp. Each time, when we got to Tanard Jackson, Shanahan said the same thing. I'm paraphrasing here, but it was basically: Really good football player, but when you have a guy with his history, do you know if you can count on him? Jackson had two prior drug suspensions, and the Redskins were taking a chance because of his talent and his connection with their secondary coach, Raheem Morris, who'd been Jackson's head coach with the Buccaneers.
Well, Jackson appears to have let down Shanahan and the Redskins. The NFL has suspended Jackson for at least one year for another violation of its substance abuse policy. He will not be paid this year, and will not be eligible for reinstatement prior to Aug. 31, 2013.
Which is disappointing for the Redskins. Jackson was one of the stars of the show in the Redskins' preseason game against Indianpolis last weekend. He was filling in that day at strong safety for an injured Brandon Meriweather, but his own play and the lackluster performance so far of Madieu Williams had Jackson in line to possibly be the starter at free safety. Now, the Redskins are likely to go with Meriweather and Williams as the starters and DeJon Gomes, Reed Doughty and rookie Jordan Bernstine as the backups.
But while disappointing, this can't be counted as a surprise. As Shanahan indicated when we spoke about the guy, this always loomed in the background as a possibility. And when you hear coaches (Shanahan included) talk about wanting "high-character" players and players who can stay out of trouble off the field, this is why. Because the guys who have been in this kind of trouble tend not to be the kind of guys on whom you can rely.
Cautionary tale here, of course. The Redskins have two far more significant players, in left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis, who were suspended four games for substance abuse violations last year and would get banned for a year if they were to be caught again. They're not likely to need this underlined, but a situation like this one surely gives them even more reason to keep themselves clean.