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View from the O-Zone: Fun, nerve-wracking time for "new guy" Malik Jackson


JACKSONVILLE – He's here, he's rich and he's absolutely ready.

The first part is news, the second part isn't and the third part is what's most important when it comes to the Jaguars' highest-profile, most-expensive – and yes, most-important – offseason acquisition.

"I'm excited to get started," Malik Jackson said Monday. "It's a new chapter."

You want to talk whirlwinds? You want to talk life-changers?

Jackson can talk those things, because the past few months have been the definition of both for the veteran defensive lineman.

In early February, he won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.

In early March, he signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent – six years, $90 million, $41 million guaranteed.

On Monday, he was at EverBank Field preparing for the team's offseason program. That begins this week, and Jackson will begin getting to know teammates, developing chemistry with the defensive line and becoming member of the team rather than The Guy Who Signed the Contract.

That makes these the first few days of the rest of his life, and Jackson was clearly excited about that as he spoke with Monday.

"I think I have to prove myself all the time – a lot of eyes," he said, referring to the expectations that come with being perhaps the NFL's top free agent this past offseason. "It's definitely fun to be me, but it's a little nerve-wracking, too."

Jackson said the "proving" was as much to himself as others.

"I have a lot of expectations on myself," he said. "I plan to be great and just continue to do what I did in Denver. For me, I believe in consistency. You have to be the same guy day in and day out, week in and week out. In this league it's all about what have you done for me lately.

"I want people to know, 'Malik's going to be here, and he's going to produce year in and year out.' I know I signed for a lot of money, but I don't want to fall off. I want to consistently play at a high level and then when I'm done have people say, 'Damned, that guy gave it his all.'''

If Jackson's excitement and motivation were evident Monday, nerves were, too.

All of those emotions are understandable, because while Jackson is confident – and while he proved his ability during a standout 2015 regular season and 2015 postseason run – he's also a human being. And this week he's a human being entering a new environment.

Uneasiness. The anxiety of being the new guy.

Those things don't go away just because you're a rich, talented new guy.

"I'm nervous because I'm meeting new people," he said. "That's not the strongest suit of mine, but we're all here for one thing, so it shouldn't be that hard."

Here's what else is new for Jackson: Attention.

In Denver, he was part of one of the best defenses in NFL history. But while he was an important part, he wasn't the focal point he will be in Jacksonville. The Jaguars need him to be good – really, really good. They're planning to move him around the defensive front, playing him at three-technique defensive tackle and end – and basically wherever he can help the most. They need him to impact the quarterback, and to be disruptive enough to make players around him better.

Those are big expectations, and Jackson knows it. He also said he's fine with it.

"It's exciting," Jackson said. "I'm more nervous just putting pressure on myself, just saying, 'I've got to be consistent.' I don't want to come in here and not be who they thought I was. I've got to come in guns blazing, getting after it faster sooner than later.

"It's just more expectations for myself to come in here and be who I can be."

That's Jackson's focus this week. Getting his bearings. Shaking hands. Learning where the bathrooms are at the 'Bank. Workouts will follow, and in a couple of weeks, on-field work will begin followed by a month of organized team activities. Somewhere in there, football will become football again and the new guy won't be as new anymore.

"Once we get on the field and I get my legs under me, once we get into OTAs and get against each other, that's when I'll feel comfortable," Jackson said.

That's for the future – and the inevitable media/fan scrutiny that comes with high dollars and high expectations? That's for the future, too.

For now, for the next few days, he's the new guy and all of the anxiety that entails.

"I know people are going to be like, 'Why did they give him 90?''' Jackson said. "I've got to go be who I am and say, 'Hey, I'm Malik and I'm ready to get to work.'''

And this week, after a whirlwind offseason, the Jaguars' most-expensive – and yes, most important – new player at last will get to do just that.

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