CLEVELAND (AP) - His long, painful comeback complete, D'Qwell Jackson couldn't contain his tears and broke down.
It had all been worth it.
Cleveland's middle linebacker, who fought back after missing almost two full seasons with torn muscles on both sides of his chest to become a star for the Browns again, signed a multi-year contract Monday with the club.
For Jackson, the security ended an ordeal that nearly ended his career. After suffering his second torn pectoral muscle and missing the entire 2010 season, Jackson through his career might be over.
But he pushed on, and won.
``At that point, being at the time which I thought was the lowest of the low, I was able to get out of it, dig myself out of the hole and it wasn't the end of the world,'' he said. ``Not being able to play football would not have been the end of the world, but that's my life right now and I was going to put my best foot forward doing it.''
ESPN reported Jackson's deal is worth $42.5 million over five years and includes $19 million in guaranteed money and roster bonuses.
At the end of his news conference, Jackson struggled to keep his composure when asked about the doubts that crept into his head.
``You can't think about it,'' he said, his voice choked with emotion. ``You have to think about getting healthy. You don't think about, `OK, well am I going to be back to this form?' When you've been broken down like I have, you build yourself back up. When I was building myself back up, hey, I was just wishing for an opportunity.''
Jackson then turned to Browns president Mike Holmgren.
``I can't thank this man enough,'' he said, pointing to Holmgren. ``It's definitely a blessing. Thank you.''
The 28-year-old could have become an unrestricted free agent next month, but before he had the chance to test the open market, the Browns locked up one of their best players, team leaders and all-around good guys.
``The component every successful team needs is leadership from players that the younger players look up too,'' Holmgren said. ``By having D'Qwell sign, we have one of the pieces of that puzzle in place because there's not a finer guy on our team as a person and you guys (media) all know what a great player he is.''
Healthy for the first time in three years, Jackson made 158 tackles - second most in the NFL - last season. The 28-year-old Jackson finished second in voting for the league's Comeback Player of the Year to Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford.
The Browns made it known late in the season they intended to re-sign Jackson, who also wanted to return to Cleveland because of the loyalty the team showed when he was injured. Although the Browns haven't won much while he's been with them, Jackson feels as if they're close to becoming a consistent winner and he wants to be a part of it.
``I've got to understand with a contract, a lot is expected, and that's fine,'' he said. ``Me being here and going into my seventh year, it's important to lead guys in this locker room. Over the years, we've had a lot of guys moving around - young guys - and now we have guys that are in the building for the long haul. Now, we can pass on what we've learned over the years and what we've been through over the years so we can make that next step.''