Eagles Welcome a More Mature Jackson Back to the Nest
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - DeSean Jackson left Philadelphia vilified by a coach attempting to spin the release of a 1,300-yard receiver who was the top deep threat in the entire NFL.
He returns as a 32-year-old man with a wife and family, hoping to secure a legacy that perhaps should have never left the city where it began in the first place.
“This is a blessing and a great opportunity for me to reunite with the Philadelphia Eagles,” Jackson said at the NovaCare Complex Thursday. "... we had something special here."
That specialness ended when Jackson's sometimes flashy personality clashed with Chip Kelly, the one-time coaching prodigy who proved to most that he valued his system over any of the moving parts inserted into it, even 1,300-yard receivers who can pop the top on any defense like Jackson.
Ironically Kelly is back in Jackson's hometown, Los Angeles, in exile from the professional ranks at UCLA while Jackson has spent the past five seasons in Washington and Tampa Bay, often haunting the Eagles whenever he got the opportunity, although never experiencing the "something special" he thought was going on at one time in Philadelphia.
Jackson has blasted Kelly in the past but took the high road now that he was able to make it back to South Philadelphia, being acquired in a trade for minimal compensation and then signing a new three-year deal with the Eagles.
“No hard feelings," Jackson insisted when asked about how he left. “At the end of the day, I understand this is a business. ... We’re just moving forward and I just want to end this story the best way I can.”
There were never any problems with executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who never wanted to release Jackson in the first place but was losing power to Kelly at the time when it came to personnel.
“One thing I can say about Howie Roseman, we always had a great relationship," Jackson explained. "Even when I went on and played in Washington and played in Tampa Bay, anytime I was able to see him on the field pre-game, he always came up and just gave me a hug. Once again, it was a bittersweet situation. We all know how I was released.”
Jackson's evolving maturity stretches from off the field onto it, explaining that younger athletes think about things a little differently before the aches and pains of aging adjust the mind.
"As a young kid, I could just wake up out of my bed and go run," he said. "I used to always say, ‘Cheetahs don’t stretch.’ And I looked at myself as a cheetah. Now, I’m a little older and these joints, they hurt a little more. So I’m happy to get out there a little earlier and take care of my body a little more."
More so, Jackson understands he's the veteran now and must pay it forward to the younger players in the Eagles locker room, something Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb once did for him.
"My approach is to come in and show the work," he said. "Any time you have guys in this league that obviously have a lot of success, and been in different places around the league, the first thing you can say is how will a guy come to work? How will a guy be accountable?
"As long as you can and put in the work, and guys see that you’re not taking a shortcut out, and you’re working just as hard as them or even harder, that’s when you get your respect, that’s where you earn your respect in this business. I’ve learned that, as a young player, and I’ve obviously been a veteran now in this league, that there are no shortcuts to success."
The narrative on how Jackson returns to Philadelphia is still to be written. He left as the No. 1 target who got plenty of traffic in the passing games and returns as a projected complementary player outside the numbers who will be given the opportunity to hit home runs but the bigger part of his job description will be to make things easier underneath for the current volume receivers in town, Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz and WR1 Alshon Jeffery.
"I’m just ready to get back and add to what they already have," Jackson said. "There’s not really much that they need. So for me to come back and add to what they already have is, my eyes, lights out."
The punctuation to a potential "lights out" offense would be another Super Bowl for the Eagles, one in which Jackson gets to participate in.
"Obviously, been keeping my eye on them the past couple of years. They’ve been doing some great things here," Jackson surmised. "Seeing the Super Bowl, I can only imagine if I was to come back here and win a Super Bowl. That’s what made me so happy and excited to be reunited with the Eagles.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen