And yes, that definitely is Tough with a capital “T.”
Jackson, in his first season as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback, has a strained pectoral in his right shoulder that continued to limit his practice time Wednesday as the team began preparing for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins at CenturyLink Field.
But Jackson is not using the injury to his throwing shoulder as an excuse, and says he hasn’t allowed it to affect his performance on game day the past four weeks – and won’t this week; or next week, when the Seahawks host the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.
“You don’t really think about it,” he said when asked how he manages the injury and pain during games. “Like on the sideline, I might start feeling it a little bit. But the second you get on the field, you’re thinking more about the defense than anything.”
Handling it any other way would only make the situation worse.
“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I’m just out there trying to make all the throws, trying to make the plays I can make. I don’t think that the injury is going to hold me back to the point where I’m thinking I shouldn’t throw the ball because it might hurt.
“I just go out there and play like I normally play.”
But the courage Jackson is displaying has not been lost on his coaches and teammates.
Offense coordinator Darrell Bevell also coached Jackson the past five years with the Minnesota Vikings. He has seen Jackson play through injuries before, but not the way he has performed since returning from the pectoral injury he got in the third quarter of the Week 5 game against the New York Giants.
“I can remember a couple of injuries that did knock him out,” Bevell said.
That was in 2007, when Jackson missed four games. This season, Jackson missed the end of the game against the Giants and the following game against the Browns in Cleveland that was after the team’s bye week. Jackson did not start the next game against the Cincinnati Bengals, either, but came on in the second quarter – and has played every snap since then.
“Sometimes it’s just determined by what the injury is,” Bevell said. “This is a pretty significant injury that he has that he’s fighting his way through.”
Heavy emphasis on fighting. This is not a week-by-week situation, it’s day-by-day. The past few weeks, Jackson has thrown only on Thursday in practice and then Sunday during the game. The coaches and training staff rely on Jackson to be honest with them about just how much he can do on any given day.
Just watching Jackson go through this process has only increased Bevell’s respect for his passer.
“He’s doing a great job of toughing it through it,” he said. “It’s great leadership for the rest of the team, as well. I’m proud of him in that fact.”
Coach Pete Carroll doesn’t have Bevell’s history with Jackson, but he also has been duly impressed.
“It amplifies the message that we got earlier on that he just continues to fight through it,” said Carroll, who has praised Jackson’s toughness on several occasions this season. “I couldn’t be more proud of a guy for fighting.
“He loves to play the game. He wants to play for his teammates. And he’s not going to miss it unless we yank him out of there. He’s just going to find a way. He’s really doing some courageous stuff.”
And what do his teammates think about the toughness and determination Jackson is showing – and at times flaunting?
“This late in the season, doing what he’s doing with what he’s got, Tarvaris is one of the toughest guys in the NFL,” Hill said. “He’s complete to me. I’ve got nothing bad to say about Tarvaris.”
But then Hill was impressed with Jackson’s durability, and ability to keep on ticking even while taking a licking, even before he injured his shoulder. Remember, Jackson was sacked 20 times and hit 24 other times in the first five games.
“To stand in there and take sacks and take hits, and stand in there and make the throw and get hit in the mouth, I’ve got a whole new level of respect for Tarvaris Jackson,” Hill said.
Jackson knows what awaits him, but he’s focusing only on one game at a time – or day at a time, in his case.
“It’s going to be like this until I rest it or have surgery, or have whatever takes place,” he said. “I’ve already come to grips that it’s going to be a process throughout the whole season as far as making sure I’m ready for Sundays.”
Or Thursday night, or Monday night, as the Seahawks move through their current three-game home stand with one tough quarterback.