TAMPA — Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson has caught 422 passes for 7,362 yards and 52 touchdowns during the course of his career.
You get the feeling from talking to him, though, that he wouldn’t mind if he never caught another pass, gained another yard or scored another touchdown.
Not if that’s what it took to win a Super Bowl.
Entering his 10th year in the league, the 31-year-old Jackson has accomplished just about everything a receiver can dream of. He’s led his team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, and led the league in average yards per catch. He’s been elected to three Pro Bowls and played in each.
There is a game he hasn’t played in, however, and he wants that game more than any other.
“Every season for me starts the same way,’’ Jackson said. “It’s about the wins, about playing winning football. And to do that I need to be a part of this offense and contribute.
“But that doesn’t mean catching a certain amount of balls or scoring a certain amount of touchdowns. I (can do my part by) creating openings for other guys or by helping the running game. That’s winning football, and that’s what I’m about. It’s what I’ve always been about.’’
In his nine years in the league, Jackson has played for six winning teams. But only four made the playoffs — all were the San Diego Chargers — and three got knocked out in the division round. The only one to make a serious run at a Super Bowl was the 2007 team that lost to the Patriots in the AFC title game.
Those experiences have left a void in Jackson’s career. Whether he believes he has a chance to finally fill it here and now with Bucs is hard to tell.
Jackson is a realist and speaks like one.
Take the Bucs offense, for example. He likes its makeup, especially the additions of 6-foot-5 rookie receiver Mike Evans and 6-5 rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. They’ll give the Bucs an edge they haven’t had before, Jackson said.
And he likes the chemistry he’s developing with quarterback Josh McCown, honed not just on the fields at One Buc Place, but on the sandlots outside of it.
“Relationships like that are only going to help this team grow, and so yeah, I feel good about the chemistry,” Jackson said. “I feel like we have guys in positions where we’re going to be able to spread the ball around, whether it’s to the tight ends, the running backs or the wide receivers.”
Jackson also is excited about his new head coach, Lovie Smith, and the promise Smith brings to the organization.
“He’s everything I thought he’d be and more,’’ Jackson said of Smith, who produced an 81-63 regular-season record, three NFC Central Division titles and a Super Bowl berth during nine years with the Bears.
“He’s a smart man. Everything he does is very well thought out and well-planned. He does everything with a purpose. Every minute in this building is (designed) to make us better as men as well as football players.’’
Jackson sees the Bucs making the progress it will take to bounce back from last year’s 4-12 disappointment and contend in the always-tough NFC South.
“We spent the better part of three months installing our system and now it’s time to crank it up, tune it up and start defining different positions,” Jackson said. “We have to get guys into locations where we can have a good advantage, but I think we’re ahead of the curve of where a new offense should be with that. So, we’re doing really well. I like where we’re at.’’
This is only the beginning, of course. It’s the end that Jackson is most concerned with. His desire to win big in this league is driving him more than anything else.
“It’s never been stronger,’’ he said.