ST. JOSEPH, MO –
For Tyson Jackson, it’s about 2011 and beyond.
That’s why Jackson chose a different form of training this off-season. Jackson, the Chiefs 6-4, 294 pound defensive end, trained as an ultimate fighter throughout the NFL lockout. He’s not looking to enter the ring, but instead wanted to add mixed martial arts technique to his on-field repertoire.
“I was training with an MMA fighter and I also trained with a football guy some tough hours every day, training five days a week for about three months, so I’m in pretty good shape,” Jackson said. “Football shape is something totally different but at the same time I’m in pretty good shape right now.”
Jackson’s second season was derailed early with a knee injury suffered in Kansas City’s season opening win over San Diego. He’d played a large role defending the Chargers run that game, but would be lost for the next two months.
By the time Jackson was eased back into the lineup, Shaun Smith had stepped into a larger role. It was mid-November before Jackson truly returned to the field.
“When that pick was made it was going to be one that we were going to have to be a little patient with,” Haley said. “First and foremost, from the position he’s playing. That left defensive end/right defensive end, they’re not real sexy-playmaker positions. You’re not going to show up in the stat sheet a whole bunch.
“We appreciate the work he’s been doing, and he’s got better each year. I would expect an even bigger jump this year, that’s what important to me right now.”
The new form of off-season training came at the suggestion of Tyson’s agent. So Jackson did his training in Atlanta, alongside MMA fighters and weight loss expert Kenya Crooks.
It’s early, but Jackson says he can already feel a difference on the field.
“Lateral quickness I think is the biggest part,” Jackson said. “I gained a lot of lateral quickness training that way. A lot of side to side movement, a lot of jumping boxes and constant moving in the hands and feet preparing your body for those quick twist movements.”
Utilizing martial arts technique is nothing new for the Chiefs. Kansas City has used taekwondo expert Master Joe Kim as a special hand-to-hand combat consultant since Haley’s first season as coach.
Kim is currently is St. Joseph working with players on each side of the football (Kim was highlighted on KCChiefs.com back in 2010).
“I’ve brought in every kind of karate expert I could find to try to have those guys work a little bit with their hands,” Haley said. “Anybody that’s in any kind of on-the-line of scrimmage position at anytime, whether you’re a defensive back, receiver, lineman, defensive lineman-that hand-to-hand combat is going on. Any edge you can create.”
This is a big season for Jackson. He says he’s not ready to put any MMA fighters into submission quiet yet, but instead aims to become a dominant defensive lineman. Improving his lateral quickness and handwork are important steps in that process.
“I will have to step up a whole lot this year with a lot of veteran leaders that left our team especially on the defense,” Jackson said. “I think I can step up big this year.”
“I think the best thing out of that is that he cares and he’s working,” Haley said. “The thing I care about and am looking at is in a situation where he couldn’t be here working with his teammates, he was working. He was going out of his way to work.”