Back on the other side Ravens: Alfred Jackson, a star receiver in the CFL, hopes to stick in the NFL at cornerback.

June 11, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

Ravens cornerback Alfred Jackson smiles when he reminisces about playing wide receiver last year across the continent and north of the border.

Jackson was one of the best at his position in the Canadian Football League, helping lead the British Columbia Lions to the CFL semifinals with 79 catches for 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"I really loved it there," Jackson said. "I had a lot of fun, and I was playing the position that I love to play."

But in the NFL, Jackson is a 30-year-old journeyman defensive back playing for his fourth team. The Ravens signed him in the off-season, hoping that the 6-foot, 183-pound veteran can help 12-year man Rod Woodson bolster a young corps of cornerbacks that includes third-year players DeRon Jenkins and Donny Brady and first-round draft pick Duane Starks.

His NFL future won't be at his preferred position of receiver, "but that doesn't mean I'm not going to give it my all on defense," Jackson said.

The Ravens have been impressed with Jackson in minicamp and are hopeful that the seven-year veteran can help.

"Alfred is an older guy with some experience," said Alvin Reynolds, the Ravens' defensive backs coach. "His experience gives us a nice mix of guys. He has a good mentality to play cornerback."

Said James Harris, Ravens player personnel director, who monitors the CFL for prospective players: "He's had several good years in the NFL and the CFL. He's a real good athlete. He's instinctive, has good size and long arms."

Jackson says his hardest adjustment at training camp next month will be trying to get out of the wide receiver mentality.

"I'm really rusty," Jackson said. "I'm so used to catching the ball that I want to turn when the receiver turns, but it also helps, too, because I know where they are going."

In college at San Diego State, Jackson was a All-American wide receiver who caught 32 passes for 542 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.

But after being drafted on the fifth round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1989, Jackson was converted to cornerback because of his size and speed and the team's surplus of receivers. Injuries limited his playing time in two seasons with the Rams, who released him early in the 1991 season.

The Cleveland Browns picked him up midway through 1991 but released him the following October. Next came two seasons with Winnipeg in the CFL, where in 1994 he caught 41 passes for 901 yards. He made it back to the NFL in 1995 and '96 with the Minnesota Vikings, but again as a cornerback.

Jackson says that in his heart, he has always wanted to be a wide receiver, but just making it back to the NFL is enough.

"I spent a lot time waiting by the phone for someone to call me, waiting for a chance to be a wide-out in the NFL," he said. "But I'm just happy for the opportunity."

Pub Date: 6/11/98

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