BEREA - His name looked out of place on the board, but after further review it was actually there for all to see.
Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was listed among the top five MVP candidates in the NFL at the quarter pole of the season, according to "ESPN" talk-show hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. Actually Golic, a Cleveland native and a former NFL defensive lineman, placed Jackson's name on a list that both agreed needed Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the top spot.
Jackson has been many things to the Browns since his arrival as a second-round draft choice in 2006, but league MVP candidate isn't among them. For now he would gladly take one Pro Bowl selection.
"I got a couple of tweets about it; a couple of text messages," Jackson said. "It's all in fun. I appreciate him giving me a little props about it. It's all cool, but it's not fun when you're not winning games."
Jackson has developed into the defensive leader with a level of play that's consistently above average and a quiet leadership style that plays well among teammates. He led the defense in tackles in three of the previous six seasons. He might have led in two other seasons, but he missed the final 10 games of the 2009 season and all of 2010 with pectoral injuries.
Like kicker Phil Dawson, Jackson has struggled to gain acceptance outside of Cleveland. Dawson continues to amaze and is arguably the best at what he does in the NFL, but he's yet to be named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster. The only postseason hardware Dawson has received was an Associated Press second-team All-NFL berth in 2007.
"When you're done playing you want to say that you experienced everything, whether it's Pro Bowl or playoffs of what-have-you," Jackson said. "There are a lot of guys (that deserve more recognition). (Defensive tackle) Ahtyba Rubin doesn't get a lot of credit nationally, but every guy in this locker room knows what he brings.
"Phil and (cornerback) Joe Haden. We have a lot of guys that can compete well and have a lot of respect around the league."
Jackson is second to safety T.J. Ward in tackles this season with 25. He has a team-high three sacks; he's intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown, and he's recovered one fumble.
In Jackson's thinking, those numbers aren't good enough. He wants to have more of an impact on a defense that's been damaged by injuries and the four-game suspension Haden is serving for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"I have a lot of room for improvement," Jackson said. "You can always play things better. In terms of how I'm playing, as long as I'm healthy and moving, I think everything else will take care of itself.
"I'm not big about worrying about stats. We have a better group up front. That allows the secondary to be better as a unit. It allows the linebackers to be better as a unit. They get a lot of the credit."
Jackson's reward for returning from the two injuries was a five-year, $42.5 million contract last February. With the deal of a lifetime in place, Jackson now wants to lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since he arrived on the scene.
"Every year, even without the contract," he said. "This year people say we're young, but we can use that to our advantage. Guys are young and worried about getting to meetings on time, so they don't realize the grand scheme of things.
"We just have to get that first win so guys can get used to that feeling. We want to try to create a habit."