- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

For the second time in a little more than a week, the Washington Redskins yesterday made a rare midseason pickup that could have a big impact on their season.
This time they acquired wide receiver Willie Jackson, who caught 81 passes for 1,046 yards last year for New Orleans. Jackson signed with Atlanta as a free agent this summer after drawing some interest from Washington but was frustrated by a recent demotion to the No.3 spot and was waived this week.
Last week the Redskins signed guard Tre Johnson, a 1999 Pro Bowl pick whose history of injuries left him out of football for the first part of this season. Johnson now is working into the rotation and is expected to be a starting guard in coming weeks.
Jackson won't need long to contribute here. Unlike Johnson, he's in game shape. And more importantly, he knows coach Steve Spurrier's offense, having played from 1991 to 1993 for Spurrier at Florida and having exited the program No.2 in school history in catches (162) and yards (2,172).
"It's a change that you're this late in the season and [you] have to get in the playbook, but at the same time it's not like I'm starting from the beginning," said Jackson, who signed a minimum salary deal around lunchtime and participated in the afternoon practice. "I know the formations. I know the verbiage, and I think that's the biggest thing at this level."
Spurrier was pleased that the club could add Jackson, though the coach and several Redskins players had good things to say about veteran receiver Kevin Lockett, who was cut yesterday. Lockett started two games last month but sank to inactive last weekend after committing a costly fumble Oct.20 at Green Bay. Jackson took the No.83 jersey of Lockett, who moved his things out of Redskin Park early yesterday.
Jackson is unlikely to play Sunday at Seattle, according to Spurrier, meaning the Nov.10 game at Jacksonville is a more likely target date.
"I don't know if he can learn all the stuff or not," Spurrier said. "And the other guys are doing pretty well also. So we'll see how much he can learn or re-learn, I guess you'd say about our offense. I seriously doubt if he'll know enough by Saturday."
In coming weeks, Jackson could challenge Rod Gardner and Derrius Thompson for a starting job, and his presence should mean fewer snaps for prospect Darnerien McCants, who caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL action last weekend.
But the Redskins could benefit from the addition of a tough, veteran playmaker. Receiver Chris Doering who played with Jackson at Florida and P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville, Fla., and now, like Jackson, lives in Gainesville during the offseason believes Jackson could be a key as this 3-4 club tries to make a run at the playoffs.
"He brings a little bit of an attitude to the group," Doering said. "He's pretty hard-core, and he goes out and plays physical and maybe brings a little toughness. He's not afraid to take on tacklers and break tackles, and I think that's something that we need."
Quarterback Shane Matthews is another of Jackson's former teammates at Florida and a fellow Gainesville resident during the offseason. Matthews remembers Jackson as his "go-to guy" in college, the one Gators wideout from that era that went on to play in the NFL.
Matthews compares Jackson physically (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) to Gardner, a strong player who can battle for position. And Matthews believes it will be easier for Jackson to re-learn the Fun'n'Gun than it was for him to adjust after eight years in the West Coast offense at the game's most complicated position.
"I think it is," Matthews said. "It'll come back quickly to him. He's a talented guy, a big, strong guy. He'll help us out."
Matthews got a phone call from Jackson during training camp and found out the receiver wasn't happy in Atlanta. Jackson expected a repeat of 2001 after choosing the Falcons over suitors like San Francisco and Washington, but he was uncomfortable almost from the start.
"He wasn't happy," Matthews recalled. "He was like, 'I think I made the wrong decision.'"
Reports out of Atlanta this week said Jackson wasn't giving full effort in areas like blocking. But Jackson declined to address such issues yesterday, questioning the context of teammates' quotes and saying, "I don't take too much of what people say. I just tend to my business."

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