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By the time last Sunday rolled around, it was clear the Los Angeles Chargers and cornerback J.C. Jackson were headed for a divorce.
The situation was not working, Jackson was not playing, and the defense was performing better without him on the field.
Before the Chargers traded their one-time free-agent prize to New England — where Jackson began his career — there was one last straw: Sources say Jackson repeatedly refused to go into the game against the Raiders on Oct. 1, standing on the sideline with his shoes untied even when a teammate was banged up and needed to come off the field.
Multiple coaches attempted to persuade Jackson — a healthy scratch for the Chargers’ Week 3 game against Minnesota — to enter the game in the third quarter after Michael Davis injured his ankle. Jackson refused, saying, among other things, that he wasn’t warm enough to play, per sources.
During his initial time with the Patriots, Jackson sometimes would sit out the opening series of a half in order to get warmed up and loose, according to a source close to the player.
Davis ended up toughing it out, playing 72 of 73 snaps, while Jackson played zero in the Chargers’ 24-17 win over the Raiders — their second in a row since Jackson’s benching.
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The Chargers entered their bye week knowing it was over with a player they signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract with $40 million guaranteed in March 2022. By Wednesday, they traded him to the Patriots along with a seventh-round pick in 2025 in exchange for a 2025 sixth-rounder. The Chargers are also paying most of Jackson’s salary to facilitate the deal.
The numbers suggest the Chargers are better off without him. With Asante Samuel Jr. and Davis starting this season, the team is 2-0; in parts of the past two seasons, the Chargers were 3-4 with Jackson in the lineup and 9-5 without him. They were a top-six defense in the NFL over the final six games last season and just shut down a Raiders offense led by stars Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs with Jackson on the sideline.
Last week’s incident was far from the first time the Chargers had issues with Jackson.
Sources say issues arose between Jackson and sports performance staff to the coaches, and to the support staff. It was a struggle, sources say, and no one could seem to get through to him.
Jackson had a great training camp in 2022, but things started to unravel right before the start of the regular season. He elected to have ankle surgery in August, causing him to miss the regular-season opener. The team supported the decision, though head coach Brandon Staley told reporters at the time of the procedure that it was to address discomfort and not a specific injury.
Jackson then suffered a significant knee injury in October, knocking him out for the remainder of the 2022 season.
When Jackson returned to the field this season, he wasn’t the same. After struggles on the field during the first two weeks of the season, Jackson was a healthy scratch for Week 3, a decision that Jackson said left him “confused.”
“I told coach, ‘What else do you expect me to do?’ I’ve been doing everything,” Jackson told NFL Network’s Bridget Condon on Sept. 27.
Jackson also ran into legal trouble last month after failing to appear in court for a 2022 speeding incident from his time in Massachusetts.
Now, he’s out of Los Angeles. The signing was proven to be a mistake by the Chargers, to be sure. But similar to last year when they released former first-round pick, Jerry Tillery, sending a big name packing could send a message to the locker room that they’ll do what’s right for the team even if it’s not the prettiest solution.
So, the Chargers moved on, with team chemistry being a focal point.
The Chargers defense also has reinforcements coming after the bye, with Derwin James and Joey Bosa among those expected to return to action as soon as Oct. 16 against the Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are dealing with a slew of injuries at cornerback, including the loss of standout rookie Christian Gonzalez to a shoulder injury that’s expected to end his season.
Jackson should have an opportunity to contribute immediately in New England, where he spent the first four seasons of his career.
“He’s played in this system before,” Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers told reporters this past week of Jackson, “so we just got to refresh him up on a couple of things. But he’s definitely a great acquisition with everything that’s been going on.”
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