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Vincent Jackson has the Chargers’ respect

Philip Rivers can take some comfort.On Sunday, when the Chargers reunite with now-Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, the quarterback won't share the field with his former teammate. He won't be asked to tackle him. He won't have to cover him

"It wouldn't be good," Rivers joked Monday. "I'd have him covered until the ball was snapped."

San Diego begins the second half of its season in Tampa Bay, making the same cross-country trip Jackson first trekked in March when he signed a five-year, $55.55 million contract with $26 million guaranteed. His free-agency departure ended a seven-year run with the Chargers.

He left some memories behind.

In the locker room, there remains respect.

While Rivers won't have to cover Jackson, left cornerback Quentin Jammer will, and he knows what awaits.

"He's one of the top five wide receivers in this game," Jammer said. "It's going to be a challenge, but at the same time, it's always a challenge you look forward to because of his ability to make plays. Like I said, I'd rank him right there in the top five receivers of this game. It's going to be matchup that I'm sure he's looking forward to."

Jackson, 29, has been an immediate-impact acquisition for the Bucs. He leads all qualified NFL players with a career-high 22.9-yard average on 31 receptions. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound veteran also is on a career-high pace with 710 receiving yards and six touchdowns at the halfway point.

His previous bests are 1,167 yards, set in 2009, and nine touchdowns, reached in 2009 and 2011.

It's likely no coincidence Jackson's arrival coincides with quarterback Josh Freeman and third-year wide receiver Mike Williams having the best season of their respective young careers.

"Certainly, it'll be different seeing him in person in a different uniform," Rivers said.

Jackson's time in San Diego was marred by off-the-field issues, including two arrests for DUI, a third for driving with a suspended license, and years of an at-times ugly contract dispute.

Some former teammates remember the 2005 second-round draft pick as someone who often kept to himself. The most noise that came from his locker was usually his speakers, which blasted the room after practice, as Jackson stood nearby, quietly bobbing his head.

“I wasn't close with him, but I spoke with the guy,” defensive end Corey Liuget said. “Very humble. Very respectful. Doesn't say much, but if you talk to him, he'll talk to you and go from there.”

Said Jammer: "He's not a trash talker. He just catches the ball, goes about his business. Very professional. A great teammate. A great guy. Unfortunately, he plays for Tampa because we'd love to have him because he was our teammate for so long.

"Like I said, a great player, a great individual, a great young man, and a really, really good friend to everybody. A lot of respect."

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Neil S. Schwartz

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Jonathan Feinsod

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