The Herald Bulletin

April 30, 2014

Colts Notebook: New LB Jackson already showing leadership skills

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — When the Cleveland Browns cut linebacker D'Qwell Jackson in late February, the eighth-year linebacker was looking for one thing in his new home: Stability.

Jackson believes he's found that with an Indianapolis Colts franchise that has made 11 playoff appearances in the past 12 seasons. And he arrives in the Circle City with a strong reputation as a locker room leader.

"I'm just looking forward to doing whatever I can to help this team win and whatever I can on the defensive side of the ball," Jackson said Wednesday during the second week of offseason conditioning at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "Whatever my knowledge is from my experience, I'm more than willing to share with the guys that are willing to listen. It's a good group of guys thus far in the locker room so I think it will be an easy transition for me."

Count second-year linebacker Josh McNary among the willing students. He figures to serve in a back-up role behind Jackson and third-year starter Jerrell Freeman.

And he said Jackson already is picking his spots to take charge in the meeting room.

"He has a lot of leadership experience, and he doesn't bite his tongue," McNary said. "If he feels that there's something we might be unclear about, he'll make sure he draws it out on the board for everybody to see, not just himself. He's a real selfless guy, and you can tell he has just that natural leadership trait."

The Browns won 10 games during Jackson's rookie season in 2007, but Cleveland hasn't won more than five in any year since.

The linebacker watched the Colts' magical 2012 campaign — during which Indianapolis improved from 2-14 to 11-5 and made the playoffs while head coach Chuck Pagano battled leukemia — and became a fan from afar.

"If you're a fan of the league, you're a fan of this game, you were definitely following what happened here two years ago," Jackson said. "So I think everyone admired that, and I was looking forward to joining it when I had the opportunity."

Toler eyeing training camp

The lasting image of Greg Toler's 2013 season is not a positive one.

The cornerback re-aggravated a nagging groin injury in the wild card playoff victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, allowing former Colts receiver Donnie Avery to sprint past him for a 79-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

But most of Toler's work as a free agent addition for Indianapolis last year was solid. If all-too-brief.

The groin injury limited him to just nine games and seven starts, during which he managed one interception and seven pass deflections. After offseason surgery, he's aiming for a return in time for training camp.

"I'm just trying to get back out there with my guys, missing those games on the back end of the season," Toler said. "Surgery went well, just trying to get the scar tissue to break up so I can be ready for training camp. OTAs, I'm leaving that in the doctors' hands, getting back out there on the field as they feel I need be."

Many happy returns?

Chris Rainey appeared in just two games with the Colts last year before a broken leg ended his season in a Week 14 loss at Cincinnati. The former University of Florida star and Pittsburgh Steelers' fifth-round draft pick averaged 21.8 yards on kickoff returns and 7.3 yards on punt returns during his brief time with Indianapolis.

Both spots figure to be open again during this offseason, and Rainey believes he's the man for the job.

"Oh, definitely, always," he said. "Whoever I'm with, I can help. I've been doing it all my life. So I've got it down pat. I've just got to work on it, get a thousand balls and be comfortable, and then I'll be ready.

Changing numbers

Cornerback Vontae Davis is returning to the No. 21 jersey he wore during his first three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and ditching the No. 23 he donned with the Colts the past two years. Though he said there's no significance.

"It wasn't important," Davis said. "I just came into the league wearing 21, and when I came here, it wasn't open. (Former cornerback) Justin King had it at the time, and it wasn't open. So it opened up, and I just wanted to stick with the number all the way through my career. 21 is that number."