Browns' Jackson redeems himself

January 02, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

CLEVELAND -- For Cleveland Browns wide receiver Michael Jackson, it was a week to forget and yet one to remember -- all in one.

Before Cleveland's 20-13 victory at home against New England, it had been tough going for Jackson.

It began with a benching in the previous week's victory over Seattle for being a couple of minutes late for a team meeting. Then Jackson received some less-than-glowing reviews from disgruntled fans.

"Earlier in the week I got a letter in my mailbox from someone saying, 'I'll be glad when we get rid of you,' " Jackson said.

"I was surprised when I read it, but I wasn't mad. I figure, to each his own."

But no matter how much Jackson would like to appear unaffected by the negative reviews from fans and coaches, he isn't. During practice this week, he talked about his future with the Browns, noting his desire to remain in Cleveland, while also questioning the organization's plans for him.

"I think the decision about me concerning next year has already been made," he said. "I don't know what the decision is, but I expect to be here next year."

After making seven catches for 122 yards against the Patriots, others may now be expecting that, too. His performance represented the fourth-best single-game receiving total in Browns playoff history.

"It's not like revenge or anything, but I think I did redeem myself a little," Jackson said. "I worked all week on paying attention to both catching the ball with my hands and then holding on to it and to keeping my feet in bounds."

More than anything else, Browns coach Bill Belichick said he was impressed with the hits Jackson took.

"He came up big; I'm talking about a lot of big catches where he hung on after being hit really hard," Belichick said.

While Jackson made a few key first-down catches, he said the biggest came with only 26 seconds left in the first half. With the score tied at 10, quarterback Vinny Testaverde found a diving Jackson for a 36-yard gain on first-and-10.

"I think all of them were big ones, but the biggest -- and probably prettiest catch -- was the diving one," Jackson said.

Although that drive ended in a blocked field goal by Matt Stover from 50 yards out, the play generated a feeling of confidence between Jackson and Testaverde.

"After the first couple balls, I knew Vinny would keep coming back to me," Jackson said.

Testaverde called Jackson's performance "a perfect game."

"There were some balls where I just threw them out there and he hung on," Testaverde said. "Other times, he shielded himself from the defender and gave me a really good target."

Jackson said the Patriots' man-to-man defense gave him the opportunity to play the type of game he prefers. The victim was New England cornerback Ricky Reynolds.

"I went out today to try to beat one player, and I think I may have done that," Jackson said.

He is not usually so modest.

Reynolds gave Jackson plenty of cushion most of the game. The result: Jackson took him to school.

So, with everything that had happened leading up to the game, (( is a one-game performance enough to mend the relationship between Jackson, the Browns and their fans?

"I don't know, every day I'm writing my resume," Jackson said before he let out a wide smile and quickly countered: "No, I'm just kidding. I'm glad to be back."

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