ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Malik Jackson sees the Broncos’ visit to Jacksonville this weekend as a chance to prove to his former team he’s worth the $90 million contract the Jaguars gave him after he rejected Denver’s $53 million offer.
“They shouldn’t have let me go,” Jackson said. “That’s my whole premise in going out there is letting them know I’m a problem and you let this problem go and now you have to deal with me.”
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall knows just how he feels.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time,” Marshall said of his first chance to play against the team that drafted him in 2012 only to doubt him and dismiss him, cutting him on three separate occasions.
“This game means a lot to me. I want to win so bad. With how everything went down, it was very disappointing, and it was … it was heartbreaking for me,” Marshall said.
That pain lingers all these years later.
“My old coach told me that he didn’t know if I was going to make it in this league. And then it was weird, the old GM, (Gene Smith) told my agent that he thought I had a bad attitude,” Marshall said. “There was a while when the coaches wouldn’t even talk to me. One time, the old GM, he cut me and he said, ‘Your ankles are stiff.’ Stiff ankles! He really said that.”
Insults like that don’t fade; they fester.
“No, it never goes away, man. I’ve always thought about it, what the coach said to me, what the GM said to me, and how I feel I was treated over there, the opportunities that I didn’t have,” Marshall said. “This is something that I’ve been looking forward to. I can’t wait. I’m going to have so much energy, so much juice. I’m excited.”
When Marshall signed his four-year, $32 million extension last summer, he said he uses the Jaguars’ snubs as motivation whether at practice, in the weight room or between the lines on game day.
“That’s my chip,” Marshall said, “the biggest chip I have because people doubted me.”
Nobody doubted Jackson, who scored a defensive touchdown in Denver’s 24-10 Super Bowl win over Carolina when he recovered Cam Newton’s fumble in the end zone on Von Miller’s first of two sack-strips.
It’s just that the Broncos had to pay Miller , Marshall and Emmanuel Sanders — whose contracts total $179.5 million — in the offseason after signing Derek Wolfe to a four-year, $37.5 million deal in January.
The Broncos miss Jackson, though.
After allowing the third-fewest yards rushing (83.6) per game last year, their run defense has tumbled to 27th, yielding 120 yards a game.
The Jaguars missed on Marshall, who leads the Broncos with 259 tackles since 2014.
The Broncos (7-4) are scrambling to make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season and are facing tough breaks — rookie QB Paxton Lynch is getting his second start with Trevor Siemian out with a sprained left foot — and a tough schedule, with games left against the Titans, Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders after Sunday.
Those teams have a combined 32-13 record.
The Jaguars aren’t the pushover their 2-9 record might suggest as they’ve lost six close games.
Still, it’s been an adjustment for Jackson, who never lost more than four games in any of his four seasons in Denver.
“It’s kind of sobering because you realize every team’s not winning 12 games a year,” said Jackson, who added he probably would still be in Denver had the Broncos made their same $53 million offer to him last season.
Not that he regrets anything.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Jackson said of his new role as the veteran tutor showing younger teammates what it takes to become a champion.
And he’s hoping he gets to play another role this weekend, that of spoiler.
“I think that would be awesome to beat the old team that let you go,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to this game. It’s definitely one I’ve had circled for a long time.”
So has Marshall.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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