RENTON — If it had been up to him, Tarvaris Jackson never would have left Seattle. So now that’s he’s back with the Seahawks 11 months after they traded him to Buffalo, he couldn’t be happier.
“It feels great, man,” Jackson said. “You know just trying to get back into the swing of things. I really didn’t want to leave last year, but you know it’s a business, but now I’m back and I’m happy to be here.”
It made all the sense in the world for the Seahawks to be interested in signing Jackson to compete for the backup job once the Bills let him go last month. He knows the playbook and many of the players having been Seattle’s starter in 2011, and the Seahawks went 7-7 with him as a starter that year with a far less-talented roster than this one. And on top of that, Jackson earned a ton of respect in the locker room for the way he gutted it out for most of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
“He was a warrior out there, fighting through an injury that most guys would have shut it down with,” receiver Doug Baldwin, when word first surfaced that Jackson would re-sign with Seattle. “Guys looked at that and they respected that and they appreciated that. He’ll be welcomed here with open arms.”
But for Jackson to come back to Seattle, he had to be willing to give up, for now anyway, his dreams of being an NFL starter.
Jackson was an on-again, off-again starter throughout his career in Minnesota, then when he signed with Seattle following the lockout, he was immediately named the starter. He had no say in ending up in Buffalo, but as a free agent this summer, Jackson could have waited to see if a situation came up during training camp that allowed him a chance to compete for a starting job, something he won’t get in Seattle with Russell Wilson leading the show. Instead, Jackson waited only a couple of days to re-sign with Seattle, where he’ll compete with Brady Quinn for the backup job.
“I mean it felt like home, really,” Jackson said, explaining the decision to come back. “You know, we got an opportunity to go deep in the playoffs. I’m very familiar with the offense, the people around here, teammates, everybody, it was a no-brainer.”
Jackson landed in Buffalo late in the preseason last year after the Seahawks decided to make Wilson their starter and Matt Flynn the backup. That meant Jackson joined the Bills late enough that he never really felt like he was getting an honest chance to compete.
“To be honest with you, it was tough, but I just tried to take it a day at a time and just do my best,” he said. “Whatever they asked me to do I just tried to do it. I mean it was a situation that I don’t wish on my worst enemy. … It was like I got sent on a paid vacation, like Seattle sent me on a paid vacation, and now I’m back. It’s good to be back.”
Ignoring for a moment the fact that nobody should be sent on a vacation, paid or otherwise, to Buffalo that extends into January, Jackson said that despite doing his best for the Bills, his heart was still in Seattle in a lot of ways even after the Seahawks deemed him expendable.
“I understand how it goes and obviously I want to be here, but I knew that we were turning it over we were getting better and I wanted to be here for that, but like I said I still watched them,” he said. “I was silently rooting for them, but I couldn’t really say that because somebody else was signing my check. I watched them every week. I went through hard times with these guys, but I was cheering for them.”
Jackson still has to earn the backup job in Seattle, and with it a spot on the roster — the Seahawks could keep three quarterbacks, but in two of the past three years under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, Seattle has had just two QBs on the active roster — but early on it’s hard not to think that he has a leg up on Quinn in that competition, both because of his familiarity with the team and also his better track record as a starter.
“He jumped right back into the system of it,” Carroll said after the first day of camp. “He didn’t have any problem. That’s a tremendous bonus. He can come out here and start competing from day one, as opposed to having to being behind and having to learn the system and all that. He ran the two minute drill the first day. You can’t get a guy in that situation who could do that very often. He’s a real favorite. Our guys really like him here. I have tremendous respect for what he did when he was here. So have him back in our locker room is a real positive for really the whole club.”
Of course none of this — not Carroll’s praising of Jackson’s early grasp of the offense, not the respect he commands in the locker room — means Jackson is just going to be handed the backup job. He of all people knows that when Carroll says there is going to be a competition, he means it. If Carroll was willing to let a starting quarterback battle play out well into August, and eventually hand the job to a rookie drafted in the third round, you’d better believe he’s willing to let Jackson and Quinn battle it out for a while. And throughout minicamps and organized team activities, Carroll has had nothing but good things to say about Quinn. For his part, Jackson is just fine having to compete for that job, especially after feeling like he didn’t really get a chance to compete for anything in Buffalo. Of course Jackson, like any backup, would prefer to be competing for a starting role, but a different situation from last year won’t change the way he approaches it.
“It’s a little different, but at the same time you just try to be the best you can be and just take advantage of every rep, because you never know,” he said. “I’m still competing, it’s never really different for me. I’m just coming out here and just trying to be perfect, trying to be the best I can be every day.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.