Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell announced at his Wednesday press conference that the team has re-signed veteran running back Justin Jackson to the active 53-man roster, taking the roster vacancy left after the Lions placed Levi Onwuzurike on injured reserve on Saturday.
Jackson was signed by the Lions early in training camp after rookie back Greg Bell landed on injured reserve. Jackson slowly worked his way up the depth chart, passing Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson (who remains on the practice squad).
Following camp, Jackson was part of the Lions' initial cuts, but he was immediately brought back to the practice squad, and was elevated for the Lions' Week 1 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. Now ahead of Week 2, he is being signed to the active roster.
So why the gymnastics with his roster movement?
It’s likely because of the NFL’s Week 1 vested veteran rule. One of the benefits that comes with being a vested veteran is that if you are on an NFL active roster for Week 1, your salary becomes fully guaranteed. But there is also a downside to this rule for veterans too.
For a player like Jefferson, whose status as RB4 leaves him a bit vulnerable to roster movement, the Lions likely didn’t want to keep him on the initial 53-man roster for Week 1, thus guaranteeing his salary. So instead, the Lions and Jackson jumped through some hoops, taking a different path to get him back on the roster.
Now that Jackson is on the roster, his primary responsibilities will include his special teams play. In Week 1, the Lions only deployed two running backs—D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams—meaning Jackson was two players away from seeing the field, as Craig Reynolds remains RB3. But, Jackson was the teams starting kick returner, where he saw seven of his 20 special teams snaps. His ability to contribute on all four special teams units makes him a valuable backend of the roster asset.
UPDATE: To fill the practice squad roster spot vacated by Jackson, the Lions announced they re-signed OL Darrin Paulo.