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Jackson unmoved by Chargers contract drama: 'It's a business'

SAN DIEGO -- Vincent Jackson appreciates what boxers go through, having done workouts for that sport during the 4½ months of the NFL lockout.

"It was exhausting," Jackson said Friday, three hours after signing a franchise tag with the San Diego Chargers for nearly $11 million. "It was a new workout for me. It's a great workout."

Jackson, coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2009, missed last year's training camp and most of the season because of a salary dispute. But for all the sparring between his agents and Chargers management, he said there isn't bad blood between him and the team.

"When I came in this afternoon, it was like a reunion with your family," Jackson said in his first public comments since January. "Guys welcomed me with open arms."

Among the well-wishers, he said, were Chargers president Dean Spanos and general manager A.J. Smith, who were on the other end of last year's nasty contract dispute.

"We never had any confrontations, anything personal about it," Jackson said. "It is a business. Things can be shot back and forth. But honestly I've never had a problem with anybody in this building. I feel like this is home."

During the lockout, Jackson was one of 10 named plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit filed against team owners. He said it was "kind of a shock" to learn of media accounts that depicted him as a lead plaintiff who could hold up the next labor pact.

"I'm not sure where that came from," Jackson said. "There was just a group of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and I was one of many plaintiffs, and we were all in the pursuit of the same thing."

Jackson said he supports the players approving the new labor deal.

The contractual matters haven't distracted him, he said, but he's eager to begin practice Aug. 4, the starting date for certain players in his contract class.

"I had a great offseason, I'm feeling healthy, ready to go, and I'm really excited about this year," he said. "Having a full year under our belt as a team, I think we're going to do some big things."

Last season, Jackson didn't play until the 11th game, then was shut down by a calf strain after two plays. Over the final four games, he had 14 catches, including a 58-yarder for a touchdown. But the Chargers ended up 9-7, costing them a fifth consecutive AFC West title.

Jackson said he didn't allow himself to wonder if the Chargers would have reached the playoffs if he had been with them all season.

"I couldn't have done that," he said. "I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. All I could do last year was just continue to train hard, stay ready and whenever that time was for me to step on the field, make sure that I was ready to go."

Jackson, 27, enters his seventh NFL season since the Chargers drafted him in 2005, but he still hasn't reached unrestricted free agency. Other receivers who went into free agency with comparable career statistics, or less, scored big multiyear deals in the last two years.

"I feel like I've been on one contract," he said.

After the 2009 season, Jackson lost a chance to become an unrestricted free agent because of the unique labor rules governing the 2010 season.

Two DUI arrests on his record didn't help Jackson's chances of receiving a long-term deal with the Chargers, who tendered him an offer of $3.268 million for 2010. The tender was cut to $662,000 when he didn't sign by June 15, 2010. Jackson ended up making $280,823 last season in prorated salary.

Last February, the Chargers designated Jackson as their franchise player, two weeks before the lockout began. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent when the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement in March.

During the lockout, Jackson caught passes from Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers at a school in San Diego.

On Friday, fresh off a honeymoon in Fiji with his wife Lindsey, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver appeared even fitter than in his Pro Bowl season. He signed his franchise tender at the first moment possible.

He said, "3:01 p.m. came, and I was in the office and putting ink to paper. I wanted to get all of that stuff behind us, and we get to focus on football."

Jackson said he's grateful to have spent his whole career with a playoff contender and "absolutely" would be interested in doing a long-term deal with the Chargers.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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