Vincent Jackson knew his latest charitable mission was going to lead him into harm’s way. Only after he arrived did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver realize just how much harm.
As part of a recent weeklong USO Tour, Jackson found himself at Camp Bastion military base in Afghanistan just hours after it was hit by a militant rocket attack that caused some damage to the base but – thankfully – no casualties.
“I got to see up front the tremendous sacrifices (our military personnel) make and the danger they face every day so that we can be free,” Jackson said.
He couldn’t pass on the tour no matter the danger it presented. He was recruited by none other than Admiral James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, who wanted Jackson to be part of a special USO Tour.
Winnefeld’s intention wasn’t necessarily to entertain the troops, but to let them meet a few of the sports celebrities who are doing the most back home for those fighting on the front lines.
Jackson, the son of a career U.S. Army medic, recently launched his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, which aides the families of military personnel serving overseas.
The tour group was comprised of Broncos QB Peyton Manning, former Boston Red Sox P Curt Schilling and a few members of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
The visit to Camp Bastion was the last in a series of stops that included stays of anywhere from a few hours to a day at military outlets in Germany, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. The tour also made a stop on the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier situated just an hour from Afghanistan, as well as the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
“Anytime you are included in a group with Admiral Winnefeld it is an honor,’’ Jackson said. “As one of the representatives of the NFL it’s my responsibility now to spread the word about what these brave men and women stationed abroad need.
“This USO trip was an eye opener. I saw how these service men and women need us at home to help them while they serve us. We need to not only be thankful for their efforts, but help them with the burdens their voluntary service brings.’’
There is a strong possibility Buccaneers fans have seen the last of DE Michael Bennett and DT Roy Miller in Tampa Bay uniforms.
Unless the defensive starters drop their asking prices, which is unlikely at this point, the Bucs will not make an effort to re-sign either one before or after the start of free agency on Tuesday.
In Bennett’s case, the Bucs believe they have a starter waiting in the wings in Da’Quan Bowers, a second-round pick out of Clemson who once was considered the top talent in the 2010 draft.
In the case of Miller, a two-down player who offers little in the way of pass rush help, the Bucs believe an equal or better replacement can be found for the price they’re willing to pay, which is about $2 million or $3 million a year.
Still, it is a curious stance by the Bucs. Since Mark Dominik became the general manager in 2009, the team’s goal has been to draft players or snag them off waivers or other team’s practice squads, develop them and reward those who become regulars with new contracts.
Bennett, who became a starter after being claimed off waivers from Seattle in 2009, and Miller, a 2009 third-round draft pick, would seem to epitomize that ideal, yet both appear headed elsewhere.
As tough as that may be for Bennett and Miller, each of whom expressed a strong desire to remain in Tampa, the Bucs’ hard-line stance is further proof the NFL is as much a business as a game. And in business, most decisions are based on dollars and cents.