CINCINNATI — Bengals cornerback William Jackson III met with the media on Tuesday for the first time since training camp started. He's fully recovered from the torn labrum that hampered him throughout the 2019 season.
Jackson is entering the final year of his contract. He wants to show the Bengals and 31 other teams that he deserves to be paid like Stephon Gilmore, Byron Jones and other top cornerbacks in the NFL.
"I go out there with a chip on my shoulder knowing it's my last year [of the contract], but I don't feel any pressure," Jackson said. "I'm just out here trying to have fun and embrace my teammates and that's the only thing I worry about."
The Bengals are hoping the 26-year-old can regain his 2017 form, when was one of the best cover corners in all of football. Unfortunately, injuries got the best of him — both in 2016 and 2019.
He played in 14 games last season, but the shoulder was an issue. It got worse in the Bengals' Week 15 matchup against Miami, which led to him being shut down for the remainder of the season.
"I was really disappointed with the shoulder injury," Jackson said. "It took awhile to get the range of motion back. I would say two months ago it started feeling 100 percent and things started feeling normal."
Jackson was upbeat on Tuesday. He was excited to see the Bengals add free agents like D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, and Vonn Bell, but he was happier about the move they didn't make this offseason.
Jackson is about to spend a second year in the same defensive system for the first time in his career. Technically, he was in Paul Guenther's system in 2016 and 2017, but he missed his entire rookie season (2016) with a pectoral injury.
"A lot of people don't understand that a lot of corners have been in the same system their whole career," Jackson said. "Every year I've had to learn a new system and terminology. So, that's the reason I've been playing and wasn't getting as much picks as I should because everything was new to me every year. So, this is the first year that I've had the same coach two years in a row. It should be a great one.
"I'm familiar with this defense and I'm comfortable in it and it's time to go make plays."
The Bengals need Jackson to regain his elite form, especially with Waynes expected to miss most of the season after he tore his pectoral muscle while lifting weights.
The key to his success might not be as complicated as you'd think. He just wants to have fun again.
"The first year (2017) I was just going out there and playing," Jackson said. "I was treating it like a regular game. But as I went on, I started treating it like a job and getting more serious and I wasn’t having fun with the game anymore. So, I just got to get back to having fun and letting it fly. And that’s a downfall on me for taking it so serious.
"My mom came to every game and she's like, 'I'm taking it too serious. It doesn't look like you're having fun and this year. It's time to get back to having fun.' Mistakes are going to happen. Just try to minimize the mistakes and have fun."
His mom gave him that advice at the end of the 2018 season. The Bengals parted ways with Marvin Lewis and hired Zac Taylor a few months later.
Jackson has spent an entire season in defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's system, which should put him in position for a successful 2020 season.
"I'm one of the older guys [on the team], which is crazy," Jackson said. "I'm just trying to get everybody together and go out here and have fun."
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