The New England Patriots were back on the fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday, holding their second practice session in preparation of the upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints. Also part of the action was a new player in a blue No. 29 jersey: J.C. Jackson is officially back.
The Patriots brought the veteran cornerback into the fold earlier that day, acquiring him from the Los Angeles Chargers as part of a late-round draft picks exchange in 2025.
Jackson, of course, started his career in New England before leaving to sign a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Chargers during the 2022 offseason. Not even 19 mostly disappointing months later, he is back where his career began as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
Despite his stint in Los Angeles, his new — and in a lot of cases: old — teammates are confident Jackson will be pick up right where he left off.
“It’s good he’s back here,” said defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. “We know he’s going to bring a lot to the team, and it’s good to see a familiar face in the locker room.”
Tight end Hunter Henry echoed those remarks.
“He was a ballhawk. He was around the ball, it seemed, all the time,” he said. “It’s exciting to have a guy like that back in this scheme. He made a lot of plays when he was here, and I’m excited to see him do that again.”
Guy and Henry both shared a locker room with Jackson during his first stay in New England. Whereas the defensive tackle was his teammate throughout his initial four-year tenure, the tight end was part of the 2021 team alongside Jackson.
That year, the defensive back started all 17 of New England’s games and was voted to his first and so far only Pro Bowl. And while it remains to be seen whether or not he can return to those same levels of play immediately, the transition from the Chargers to the Patriots already appears to be going well.
“I would say he didn’t miss a beat,” said safety Jabrill Peppers. “He’s played in this system before, so we just got to refresh him up on a couple of things. But he’s definitely a great acquisition with everything that’s been going on.”
Jackson appeared in a combined 67 regular season and playoff games for the Patriots, earning the nickname “Mr. INT” for his ball production: he picked off 25 passes between 2018 and 2021, the highest such number in the league. And while he failed to build on that foundation in L.A. — he had only one interception in seven games as a Charger — his track record in New England speaks for itself.
“Always loved having J.C. around. He’s always been a fun teammate,” said center David Andrews. “So, excited to have him back. He’s someone who’s been here and knows.”
Jackson might get his first opportunity to build on his Patriots résumé on Sunday versus the Saints.