He’s not happy, but he’s here. After holding out for the first 12 days of training camp, wide receiver DeSean Jackson is finally back with the Philadelphia Eagles.
And he said he’s here to stay, regardless of what happens with his contract negotiations or, more to the point, the lack of them.
Jackson arrived at Philadelphia International Airport on Sunday night, was driven to the Eagles’ training camp at Lehigh University in a limousine (accompanied by agent Drew Rosehaus), took a physical on Monday morning and was on the field on Monday afternoon to watch a walk-through practice and reconnect with his coaches and teammates.
Jackson, after sitting out the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens, will practice for the first time on Saturday and should play in the second preseason game next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And now that he’s here, you have to wonder why he wasn’t here the entire time. To make a point? The Eagles already knew he wasn’t happy with his contract. Because he’s underpaid? Everyone knew that, too. To gain bargaining leverage? An NFL deadline had him hustling back to camp not because he wanted to be here, but because he had to be here. Because he has Rosenhaus for an agent? Now we’re getting warm.
Rosenhaus also represents another talented and temperamental wide receiver, Terrell Owens. Their contract squabble with the Eagles in 2005 soured Owens’ relationship with the team in general and quarterback Donovan McNabb in particular and they ended up in a nasty divorce. That was, by far, the most divisive situation in Andy Reid’s 13 years as coach of the Eagles and it tore the team apart as some players sided with McNabb and some sided with Owens.
Eventually Reid kicked Owens off the team and the Eagles finished 6-10, their only losing record under Reid since his first season with the team in 1999. And the Jackson situation could have devolved the same way, especially since he has the same agent. But this time Rosenhaus’ client is taking a different, much gentler approach. Jackson wouldn’t discuss his holdout and the reasons for it, but he made it clear that he wants to stay with the team that drafted him in the second round in 2008.
“Just because I held out for a couple of days doesn’t mean I don’t want to be an Eagle,’’ Jackson said. “I don’t want to turn this thing into anything negative. I love Philadelphia, I love the fans here. I just want to keep that positive theme going. At the end of the day I have to be a professional. I can’t cry, I can’t moan about it.’’
Everyone agrees that Jackson should be making more money. The rub, as usual, is how much more? Jackson is scheduled to make around $600,000 this season, which is a pittance for the game’s most dynamic playmaker. But he wants to be paid as much as the top receivers in the league, and despite all of the jaw-dropping big plays he makes, Jackson’s numbers don’t warrant that kind of contract.
He caught 47 passes last season and 68 NFL players caught more, including two on his own team. He scored eight touchdowns and 27 players scored more, including three on his own team. Plus Jackson had nine games in 2010 where he caught three passes or fewer – including the playoff loss to Green Bay when he had two receptions – and those are hardly the statistics of a dominant receiver.
But even though he didn’t catch as many passes as some other players, nobody did more with them. Jackson’s 22-yard per catch average led the league and nobody scared enemy defenses more than he did, which opened up other things for the Eagles offense. And let’s not forget that Jackson is one of the most dangerous punt returners in the game, as the Giants discovered last year when he stunned them with 65-yarder to win the game in the final seconds.
“I think my game speaks enough for everything,’’ Jackson said.
Certainly Jackson’s teammates know his value to the team. When a reporter asked tight end Brent Celek why he was glad to see Jackson back in the fold, Celek looked at him like he was crazy.
“Because we need him,’’ he said.
That is something on which everybody can agree. The Eagles have added a galaxy of stars to their roster in the last couple of weeks, but they also know they need Jackson’s dynamic playmaking if they’re going to win a Super Bowl. And after all the moves they’ve made, and all the disappointing finishes they’ve had under Reid, this team and its fans won’t be satisfied unless there’s a parade down Broad Street in February.
And DeSean Jackson made it clear that he wants to lead that parade.
“My destiny is to be here,’’ he said, “and to be an Eagle.’’