A cancelled 2020 CFL season was frustrating, but for Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, not being able to play was quickly put into perspective.
“Sadly, the virus has touched myself, my father, my grandfather and one of my aunts, but luckily we’ve all recovered,” Jeffcoat told media in a conference call on Friday. The Austin, Texas, resident signed a one-year contract extension to remain with the Blue and Gold.
“Thankfully none of us were hospitalized. Shoot, my grandfather, who’s dang near 90, was asymptomatic. It was crazy. Me and my father kind of had flu-like symptoms, along with my aunt. It lasted about four days then it started to get better. But not everyone gets it like that. We were blessed.”
Chasing down quarterbacks doesn’t sound so important in comparison.
“This makes me realize this is no joke. This is serious. This is a pandemic. We don’t know enough about this virus yet,” said Jeffcoat, a Bomber since 2017.
“Yes, there’s a vaccine out, but it’ll take some time to give it to the general public. It has to go to people who work in the medical field, people at the highest risk, and then healthier people as myself and a lot of my teammates and whatnot are going to be some of the last ones to receive the vaccine. Quite frankly, I’m fine with that because I want the people that are the highest risk to be protected and feel like they can get out and be safe.”
Whether there will even be a 2021 CFL season may well be riding on a vaccine. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has shared his optimism on vaccine progress, but the league hasn’t provided any details on how they plan to play football if everyone, on the field and in the stands, doesn’t get a shot in the arm by the time a season is supposed to kick off.
Jeffcoat remains hopeful it will work out and that he and his teammates can defend their 2019 Grey Cup crown.
“The biggest thing is just continue to be positive. I’ve tried to be as positive as possible and do all I can, control what I can control and don’t worry about the things I can’t control. That’s kind of been a big thing that’s helped me along the way that my father has told me,” said Jeffcoat.
His father, Jim Jeffcoat, played 15 NFL seasons between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills.
“So, that’s what I’ve done: control the things I can control… You’re a lot less stressed when you do that.”
If there is a season, the Jeffcoat signing is a big one. He missed six regular-season games in 2019 due to injury, but he was in peak form for the playoffs, especially the Grey Cup. In the championship game, Jeffcoat, a 6-3, 253-pounder, had four tackles, a tackle for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Jeffcoat, 30, admitted it almost ended up being the final game of his career as he got into the real estate business this past year and contemplated walking away from football for good.
“I definitely floated with the idea (of retirement). I got my real estate licence and I’ve been interviewing with different brokerages out here in Austin,” he said.
“I talked to some and they’re like ‘If you still got the passion to play, go play. Real estate will be here.’”
With Jeffcoat and the 2019 Most Outstanding Defensive Player in Willie Jefferson at defensive end, the Bombers enter 2021 with a formidable pass rushing duo. Jeffcoat has 80 tackles, 17 sacks, five forced fumbles, and an interception in 40 games over his three seasons in Winnipeg. If he and Jefferson can play a full season together, he’s confident they can give opposing quarterbacks some nightmares.
“We both live down here in Austin so we both have had time to get together. We’ll have a lot more time to work out together,” he said.
“I think we’ll be able to bring it to the next level. We’re really starting to get to know each other even better on the field and off the field. It’ll help with us playing together on the field.”
Jeffcoat was one of four signings announced by the Bombers on Friday. The club also inked Winnipeg-born offensive lineman Geoff Gray, national linebacker Shayne Gauthier and American linebacker Tobi Antigha.
Gray, a former Manitoba Bisons standout, joined the Bombers in October 2018 after a stint in the NFL. Originally drafted by his hometown club eighth overall in the 2017 CFL draft, Gray made 12 starts in 2019 when veteran guard Patrick Neufeld was out with injury.
Gauthier will enter his fifth season in Winnipeg. He’s appeared in 49 games with the Bombers, making 40 special teams tackles and generating one forced fumble.
Antigha signed with Winnipeg in February of last year but never got to make his debut with the club owing to the cancelled season. The product of Tampa, Fla., suited up for the Toronto Argos in 2019, appearing in 11 games and had 20 tackles and two interceptions.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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