Bears' Eddie Jackson is out to prove himself all over again: 'That player is still there'

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Five years into his NFL career, Bears safety Eddie Jackson needed a clean slate. But first, he had to confront reality.

During some down time this summer, Jackson turned on the film from his rookie season in 2017, when he emerged as a staple in the Bears’ secondary. Mentally, he put himself back in the place of being a hungry rookie out of Alabama who fell to the fourth round, who transformed into an All-Pro in 2018 and whose performance then fell off over the next three seasons.

Jackson watched every single play of his NFL career, from the game-changing interceptions to the costly missed tackles. He became consumed with it. Through that filmy study, Jackson once again saw the player and person he needs to be heading into his sixth season.

“That player is still here,” Jackson said, pointing to his prolific play from his first two seasons in the league. “That player still exists. A lot of people are writing me off personally. It's cool. I work the best when I’m an underdog.

“I got a lot to prove. There's a lot on the line. Not even just for me, for this team, trying to bring a championship back. Like, to be honest, I went to Bama. I’m not really used to losing. So, it’s like, coming in your first year, you lose more games your first year than your college career. It sucks. You don’t want to get used to losing. You don’t want to make it acceptable.

“Right now, I know I got to be the best version of myself and get back to the high level of playing ability, which I will.”

Now 28 years old, Jackson remains in the Bears’ plans because of the contract security he earned from the organization’s previous regime. Former general manager Ryan Pace signed Jackson to a four-year extension worth $58.4 million in January 2020. That made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL at the time. Jackson doesn't have an interception since, and he hasn’t been the presence in the secondary he used to be.

Before he could move forward from his struggles, Jackson had to accept his past performance and form a new mindset. Then he had to do “more work than I’ve ever put in,” as he said.

“Life hits you hard in different directions,” Jackson said as he reflected on the last two seasons. “I was going through a lot of stuff off the field. Not saying that’s an excuse at all. But going through a lot of stuff, getting my life in order.

“Just seeing how I was playing compared to the things I didn’t do, it sucks. I was stuck on, ‘Oh, I got two touchdowns called back,’ feel like everybody is against me, stuff like that. Man, listen, clean slate, it’s behind you. Step up. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Step up. You hear the chatter. Let them talk. Go out there and prove this year the type of player you are.”

Jackson is playing for his third head coach in six seasons after the Bears hired Matt Eberflus in January to replace Matt Nagy. With that change has come a drastically different approach each day at Halas Hall. Eberflus’ HITS principle requires buy-in from all players. They must hustle to the football, play with a newfound toughness and embrace hard coaching.

Eberflus’ arrival marked the start of a different culture for the Bears. After some needed soul searching, Jackson bought in to the new direction.

“When you're trying to change and shift the culture, new coaches, new everything coming in, that’s the starting point,” Jackson said. “How are we going to set this foundation? Is it going to be rock steady or have little cracks and holes here?

“The complacency was a big part, knowing the type of guys we had. We didn’t really have to go the extra mile – compared to now, to see the work we’re putting in, how we work, how we train, how we approach this thing. It's a different mentality. It's a whole different mentality.

“You see all that, ‘Worst team in the league. Worst secondary in the league.’ Man, we hear all of it. It's fuel to the fire. I'm so pumped up because I just know the type of year we’re going to have. We're going to shock a lot of people.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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