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The Subtext Behind Jamaal Jackson's Return

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Philadelphia Eagles center Jamaal Jackson sets to block against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Oct. 22, 2006 in Tampa. The Bucs won 23 - 21 on a last-second, 62-yard field goal. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

    In a surprise move on Sunday, the Eagles activated guard Todd Herremans and center Jamaal Jackson from the physically unable to perform list.

    The return of Herremans, who was simply being brought along slowly with a foot injury, was expected. But the early return of Jackson was not.

    The Eagles' longtime starting center tore his ACL at the end of last season, a blow that crippled the offensive line for its two match-ups against Dallas. Many speculated that Jackson wouldn't be able to return at all in 2010, let alone in training camp. Yet that is exactly what seems to be happening.

    Jackson could have stayed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the season before the Eagles had to decide whether to activate him or send him to injured reserve. That would have provided as close to a year of rehab as possible without missing an entire season.

    However, the Eagles decided to get Jackson practicing again, perhaps before he's 100 percent. Why?

    The first reason I can think of is that Jackson himself was pushing hard to get back on the field. He took the starting center job years ago when incumbent center Hank Fraley was injured. Certainly Jackson doesn't want either Nick Cole or Mike McGlynn to replace him.

    However, the PUP decision is made by the team. The Eagles had to think it was more valuable to have Jackson back for training camps, or they wouldn't have made the move yet.

    Some people are wondering if Jackson's just ahead of schedule and could actually start in the first game against Green Bay. Andy Reid half-heartedly endorsed that theory in his press conference yesterday.

    I'm not so optimistic about Jackson's return — these players rarely bounce back completely after less than a year. However, I think there's a very clear message being sent here by the Eagles: at some point in the early season, they expect a 90 percent recovered Jackson to be a better option than either a healthy Cole or McGlynn.

    Reid professes confidence in both players every other day, but this move tells us exactly what he really thinks of them. If either one had distinguished himself as a dependable starter, the Eagles likely would have let Jackson come along slowly. But with neither player asserting themselves as great long-term options, the coaches will try to get Jackson back playing as soon as possible.

    Maybe Jackson's recovering  miraculously. But more likely, this move is a vote of no confidence in the starting center's possible replacements.