Kansas City Chiefs

Jackson learning to deal with lofty expectations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Tyson Jackson stopped Googling himself years ago. Too many amateur coaches out there. Too much unsolicited advice. Too many harsh words.

But his family? Jackson says they can't help themselves. They plug the Chiefs defensive end's name into the box and read the words that bounce back. Sometimes they read the same kinds of things that turned Jackson away so long ago.

"Tyson Jackson, Ryan Sims"

"The Chiefs made a huge mistake by picking Tyson Jackson over Aaron Curry"

"I don't know what KC was thinking."

Standing in the Chiefs locker room, Jackson talked this week about absorbing one kind of information and ignoring the rest, even when his team is faltering and he is expected to become nothing short of a superstar.

He was the No. 3 overall draft pick in April, Kansas City's highest pick since 1988, when the team drafted another defensive end, Neil Smith. Jackson said he knows he'll face high — and occasionally unreasonable — expectations. But he says he can't concern himself with that, especially if he is ever to reach anything close to his potential.

Through three games, Jackson has just two tackles and zero sacks.

"You really can't focus on the draft or nothing," he said. "All that is over with now. I've just got to continue to get better."

Jackson faces an unusual situation. He was drafted in part to provide a cornerstone for the Chiefs' move to the 3-4 defensive front. But where he was drafted sent a signal, not only that Jackson would be worth top-five money — he signed a contract in August that will pay him a guaranteed $31 million over five years — but also that his 6-foot-4, 296-pound frame can shoulder the bulging expectations.

But if Jackson vanishes during a game, such as his zero-tackle performance last Sunday in a loss at Philadelphia, then the masses grow restless. Were the Chiefs wrong to draft him so high? Will he be only a marginal NFL player, if that? Will he be an outright bust?

For the Chiefs' part, their decision-makers have spent time doing an odd thing, even after Jackson's contract was finalized: saying that Jackson might never become the game-breaking defender his draft slot and contract would imply.

On draft day, general manager Scott Pioli compared the decision to draft Jackson to the Dallas Cowboys' move in 1991 to draft Russell Maryland with the top overall pick. Maryland never led the league in sacks and reached just one Pro Bowl in 10 NFL seasons, but was always reliable.

"That position is not a lot of glory," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "You're not going to see a lot of flash. Now, he's got to do some things very well early.... It's not going to be a high-sack or high-production position all the time, even though he may be being very productive for us.

"He knows how to work, and that might have to be enough for now."