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Packers debut bittersweet for Don Jackson

Michael Cohen , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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GREEN BAY - Five days after making his NFL debut against the Chicago Bears, rookie running back Don Jackson sat at his locker with a black compression glove on his injured left hand.

Given to him by the Green Bay Packers' medical staff, the glove is designed to reduce the swelling Jackson has experienced since he exited last week’s game in the first half, just a few plays after his night began. Trainers recommended the glove after Jackson's hand ballooned again Monday night.

“Getting better,” Jackson said with a smile. “I’ve got movement now, so that’s a good thing. I’ve got movement. No break — at least as far as we know. We’re kind of waiting on the hand doctor, a specialist.

“The little glove, it worked. I said they should have made it white, though. Should have made it white and gave me a little hat. That would have been good.”

Michael Jackson references aside, Don Jackson experienced far less than a moonwalk against the Bears. Added to the active roster after injuries to Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee), the undrafted free agent from Nevada played a bit part as wide receiver Ty Montgomery shouldered the load.

Jackson carried the ball twice for 6 yards before injuring his hand in the first half. His snap count matched his yards from scrimmage.

“It was bittersweet,” Jackson said. “It was sweet because I was out there. You know what I’m saying? I made it out onto the field. As far as I know I was having a clean game too, and that was my biggest thing going in was knowing what to do. (Quarterback Aaron Rodgers) and everybody around me, all the running backs, we all got together to make sure we were in that (playbook), that I was right mentally.

He added: “I was still a little nervous, but that’s what this is about. The next time I go out there I think I’ll be even more prepared and I’ll be able to make some things happen.”

Whether his next opportunity arrives Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons remains to be seen; the hand injury complicates his availability. Jackson believes it would be a “tough ask” for him to be ready in less than a week, but the current rate of recovery has been encouraging, even with Monday night’s swelling.

“If it keeps moving forward at this pace I think I’ll be ready to go,” Jackson said. “That’s how we’re approaching it, like I’m ready to go.”

In the interim, Jackson’s comfort with the first-team offense continues to grow, whereas the initial transition came with challenges. Chief among them was the absence of play cards that proliferate scout team responsibilities. Before each rep, an assistant coach shows the scout team what play to run based on a card that mimics the opposition. It tells players what route to run, what lane to fill and leaves thinking in the dust.

But with the first-team offense, where there are no play cards, Jackson’s responsibilities and stress level soared.

“I think the difference is everything is much more detail-oriented rather than going on the card, where it’s like, ‘Here, just go run an outside zone and this is the gap we want you taking,’” Jackson said. “But then when you get in there with the one offense it’s like I’ve got to know what the run blocking assignments are for the line, because that’s going to give me an advantage when I’m trying to go to the next level.

“Really you just don’t want to mess up, you don’t want to screw up. You just don’t want to screw up.”