It was no coincidence that a big smile returned to Eddie Jackson's face Tuesday when he practiced for the first time since the start of training camp.
"There's nothing like being out there on the field, building that team camaraderie," said the Bears' fifth-year safety, "and just building that chemistry with me and 'Gip' (fellow safety Tashaun Gipson Sr.) again and all the defense. That's what I'm most excited about being back."
Jackson wasn't worried that the hamstring injury he sustained while working out on his own last month would be a long-term issue. But there wasn't anything he enjoyed about sitting out the first 13 days of camp.
"Just watching my teammates compete and not being able to join them, just itching to be in there, that was the toughest [part]," he said. "I'm happy to be back, excited, just ready to compete."
Jackson hurt his hamstring during an intensive workout when he burst up field after catching a football.
"This offseason was a real grind for me," said the two-time Pro Bowler. "I feel like I probably worked the hardest I've ever worked in the offseason. So, things like that sort of happen. I wasn't too concerned about it. They just wanted to take everything slow with me, just build up and make sure everything is 100 percent. I was never worried though."
Jackson's comfort level is high as he rejoins Gipson in the Bears secondary. It's the first time the 2017 fourth-round pick from Alabama will team with the same safety in back-to-back seasons since Jackson's first two years in the NFL when he played alongside Adrian Amos in 2017-18.
"People don't know how big of a deal that is," Jackson said. "It's huge, because sometimes you come in with new guys, guys not used to playing this; not used to playing that, so you've got to build that chemistry all over again. Me and Gip, we go off each other. We've already got a feel to each other, with the disguise purposes or when it's time for us to pass something off."
Jackson also is very familiar with Sean Desai, who was promoted to defensive coordinator in January. Desai was Jackson's position coach the past two seasons after serving as Bears defensive quality control coach from 2013-18 under three head coaches: Marc Trestman, John Fox and Matt Nagy.
Jackson lauded Desai for his ability to put players in position to succeed and "help us play to our strengths." It's something that reminds Jackson of Vic Fangio, who served as Bears defensive coordinator from 2015-18.
"That's one thing [Desai] has always been good at," Jackson said. "He was here with Vic, so he's kind of got that same kind of feel. I don't want to give out too much, [but Desai excels at] moving players around, getting us to really reach our full potential on defense at our positions and making it hard for the opposing team."
“I’m happy to be back, excited, just ready to compete.” Bears safety Eddie Jackson
The intensity and enthusiasm the 38-year-old Desai brings to Halas Hall on a daily basis has energized the Bears defense on and off the practice field.
"He's a younger guy," Jackson said. "He's challenging us in many different ways. Disguise purposes. Being on time. Just little stuff, little keys, little details that he's challenging us in. I feel like everyone's ready for the challenge. Everyone's stepped up for the challenge so far. I'm just happy to be back out there just to show him I'm ready to fly around, I'm ready to go."