After suspension, long wait is over for Ravens' Asa Jackson

After suspension, long wait is over for Ravens' Asa Jackson
November 21, 2013, 9:30 pm
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(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Asa Jackson sat 3,000 miles away from his teammates, wondering if they would ever be his teammates again.

Faced with an eight-game suspension for a second violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Ravens cornerback stayed in shape by working out at a gym in Southern California, knowing all the while there was no guarantee the Ravens would want him back when his suspension ended.

But at the end of his eight-week suspension -- reportedly for the use of the ADHD medication Adderall -- the Ravens activated the second-year cornerback to the 53-man roster, and he made his first appearance of the season last week at Chicago, playing seven snaps on special teams.

"It was real exciting," he said. "It was an opportunity I've been waiting for since last February. ... I'm appreciative that I still got that opportunity, especially here with the Ravens."

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Jackson's role now is on special teams coverage, which was his role in limited action as a rookie last season. He appeared in three regular-season games and registered one tackle.

But the former Cal Poly star has also showed flashes as a return specialist in the past two preseasons. This past August, he had a 78-yard punt return touchdown against Atlanta.

Per NFL rules, he was allowed to play in the preseason after the suspension was announced, but before Week 1, he became persona non grata around the Ravens facility.

Jackson returned to his native California and trained at the Athletes Performance facility in Carlsbad.

Jackson was suspended for four games last season for a similar violation, and although he said he was approved for a therapeutic use exemption for the medication, the second positive test occurred before he received approval. That triggered the eight-game suspension.

"Something you love being taken away always hurts," he said.

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Jackson also lived in fear that he would not be asked back.

After all, safety Christian Thompson, who was drafted in the fourth round last year -- one round before Jackson -- began the season serving a four-game suspension. When his suspension ended, the Ravens cut him.

Jackson said he "absolutely" feared the same fate could await him.

"When you get suspended, you don't know what your future is gonna be," he said. "And that's a hard thing to deal with. But at the same time, I stayed grounded in my faith, kept doing what I could do to give myself the best opportunity so once I got back, if they did want me to be here, that I would be ready to go.

Thankfully, the Ravens organization does want me here, and while I'm here I'm going to do everything I can to contribute."