You know things have changed when DeSean Jackson is standing at his locker talking about leadership.
And how important it is to him.
It’s not 2008 or 2009 anymore. Jackson is 32 and beginning his 12th NFL season, his first with the Eagles since 2013.
He’s changed. And if it wasn’t clear before, it sure is when he says things like this:
When I left here, (I was) able to really mature. When I was here the first time around I was young and leaving and (learning how) to be a pro and take my job seriously. Not to say I never took it seriously before, but it took time to grow and just to learn and be where I am now. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been through a lot. So I have a lot to give back to the young guys. Like JJ (Arcega-Whiteside), he comes in and asks me questions and all the younger guys. I just have a lot to offer to to these young dudes, so that’s what I’m here for.
No matter what you’ve heard, D-Jack was never a bad guy in the locker room. But he did have an immature side as a young player, which certainly doesn’t make him unique in the NFL but did give his coaches the occasional headache.
And let's be honest. Jackson never got into trouble during his first stay with the Eagles, but nobody was using the words "leadership" and "DeSean" in the same story.
He talks about being a team player and just doing whatever he’s asked. Being a part of a winning team. Working with the young players.
He just sounds different.
“Me coming back here, it’s just good to be an addition to what they’ve already got,” he said. “I’m just happy to be an addition to whatever it is that they need thrown in there. Let’s make it happen. I’m ready to get back to it.”
A few notes on D-Jack’s career:
• He’s one of only five wide receivers left who was active in the NFL in 2008. The others are Larry Fitzgerald, Ted Ginn, Jordy Nelson and Pierre Garcon. There’s also Brandon Marshall, who hasn’t retired but isn’t currently on a roster.
• He’s the only player in NFL history to lead the NFL in yards per catch for two teams, and he’s led the NFL in yards per catch for three teams.
• His 17.4 career average per catch is highest in the NFL in the last 35 years.
• He's averaging 16.6 yards per catch in his 30s. Only two other active receivers averaged 16.6 yards per catch in their 20s (Josh Gordon, who is technically "active," and Marquise Goodwin).
Is he still the fastest receiver in the NFL? “Yeah, man. Shoot, I like myself, man, bet (me) against anybody.”
More important than his 40 speed is his attitude.
I just take pride in going out every day and mastering my job. Running routes, making big plays, the energy. Whatever it is, bringing that and letting the other guys feed off of it. I feel like in my career that’s what I do best. Make plays and amp my teammates up for them to follow suit and make plays. As long as we’re able to do that, we’ll have a great season.
This is clearly not the 21-year-old kid who took the NFL by storm as a rookie out of Cal in 2008.
It looks like the speed and ability are still there. Just not the headaches.
“Just fit in and do what I need to do to help in any way possible,” he said. “I’m ready to start competing on the field on Sundays.”
Jackson had a big postseason in 2008 — 11 catches for 207 yards and a TD against the Vikings, Giants and Cards.
But he’s only played in four playoff games since, losing all four.
He’s had five 1,000-yard seasons, made three Pro Bowls, scored 63 touchdowns.
Jackson said that stuff doesn’t drive him anymore. The desire for the one thing missing on his resume drives him, and when winning a championship is all that matters that’s always a pretty good sign.
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