Jackson sidelined with tests

7-26-02, 7:50 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Suddenly, football isn't the most important thing on the mind of Bengals left tackle John Jackson even as training camp opened Friday.

Jackson, the dean of the Bengals, could face retirement because of a heart problem discovered during his training camp physical.

Jackson, the senior Bengal in age (37), NFL seasons (14), and playoff games (13), plans to undergo an angiogram Monday at Cincinnati's Christ Hospital. He spent Friday's first practice in a doctor's office.

"He had a marginally abnormal stress test that was repeated this afternoon in Cincinnati," said Bengals trainer Paul Sparling. "The same abnormalities were elicited and as a result John has asked us to be aggressive with it."

Because the angiogram involves a catheter, Jackson would be out two weeks if the exam showed no problems. But Sparling said if the test reveals some blockage around the heart that would require an angioplasty, Jackson would be out "a good amount of time and it would

have an impact on advising what he should do about his career.'

Jackson, a Cincinnati prep product from Woodward High School who went on to play at Eastern Kentucky and then on the Steeler teams that appeared in three AFC title games in the late '90s, attended meetings Friday night here at Georgetown College after arriving back from Cincinnati.

Stunned by the news, Jackson never saw it coming. He isn't exactly thinking about career decisions at the moment.

"We'll take care of it and just go from there," Jackson said, "That's the most important thing right now. My health. I'm not assuming anything right now. We're going to do some more tests and go from there.

"I'm just thinking about living one day at a time," Jackson said. "Because right now, that's where my mind is."

Jackson, who re-did his deal for one year to give the Bengals some cap relief, faces a deep field of tackles on the roster. He is the third left tackle behind Richmond Webb and No. 1 pick Levi Jones. But he is a favorite of head coach Dick LeBeau, he can also play right tackle, and in last season's finale he blanked Titans sack ace Jevon Kearse in relief of Webb.

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