Back with Eagles, DeSean Jackson says 'no hard feelings' on being released 5 years ago
PHILADELPHIA — DeSean Jackson said he learned a lot from his first tenure with the Eagles when he was unceremoniously released five years ago after having the best season of his career.
That's why Jackson said he has "no hard feelings" toward the Eagles after spending the last two seasons with Tampa Bay and the previous three with Washington.
In fact, at 32 years old, Jackson said he has a new perspective on how to approach the final seasons of his career, while at the same time remaining the elite speed receiver the Eagles desperately need.
That's why the Eagles traded for Jackson on Monday, sending the Bucs a sixth-round draft pick this year while getting a seventh-round pick back in 2020.
"As a young kid, when I was 24, I didn’t have to do that," Jackson said Thursday about working out and taking care of his body. "I could just wake up out of my bed and go run. 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."
Jackson might be 32 years old, but he is still considered an elite deep threat after leading the NFL in yards per reception last season at 18.9, something he has done three other times in his career.
"It’s going on my 12th year and ... I still feel like I’m running and playing like a 26-year-old," Jackson said. "I want to end my career here."
Jackson will get that chance to do that, calling his return "a blessing." The Eagles drafted Jackson in the second round of the 2008 draft before releasing him following the 2013 season, when Jackson had career highs in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,332) and touchdowns (nine).
That was done under former coach Chip Kelly. Jackson, who had been critical of Kelly in the past, did not mention his name Thursday when asked about his release, saying only, "We all know how I was released."
He added that he always stayed on good terms with Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, often hugging him on the field before games when Jackson played for Washington and Tampa Bay.
Jackson signed a three-year extension with the Eagles after the trade, worth a maximum of $27 million.
"At the end of the day, I feel like this is a business," Jackson said about getting released. "Things happen in this business. As a young kid, coming from Los Angeles, California, obviously, if I can sit here and tell you I could write out this story for it to be this way, I probably wouldn’t have told you that.
"The best thing I could say is you move forward in your life."
Jackson admitted his attitude has changed over the years. He said maturity and having a family had something to do with that.
"Honestly, at a young age, you don’t have to look at how I’m taking care of my body, or how I’m resting, how much am I partying, how much am I doing all the wrong things," he said. "I think as you get older, you mature, you wake up and say, ‘My body is hurting a little more. Maybe I gotta sit in the hot tub a little longer. Maybe I gotta get to work earlier, get on the field and go stretch out. It’s little things like that."
And there was another little thing: Jackson said he will get the No. 10 he wore during his first tour with the Eagles, saying he worked out a deal with fellow receiver Mack Hollins.
“I definitely talked to Mack and appreciate him letting me get that number back," he said. "That number, I don’t know how much I need to argue about that. I did some great things in that number. It’s definitely good to have that number back.”
But Jackson does return with some potential issues.
He acknowledged that things didn't work out in Tampa, despite the Bucs having a similar set of talented receivers as the Eagles. Jackson bristled last season when he didn't get the ball as much as he thought he should, and even asked for a trade in October.
That could easily happen with the Eagles. After all, tight end Zach Ertz had 116 receptions last season, and Alshon Jeffery also gets plenty of targets, as does Nelson Agholor.
Jackson also has dealt with nagging injuries over the years. He hasn't played in all 16 games since his last season with the Eagles.
Still, Jackson said he's looking forward to playing with quarterback Carson Wentz, and made sure to note that Wentz has "an arm out of this world, and can throw the deep ball."
And yes, Jackson noted Wentz's tweet from Monday where he basically said he'll throw it as far as he can, and let Jackson run under it.
But mostly, Jackson was excited about finishing his career with the Eagles.
He has led the NFL in yards per reception four times in his career. He has the most 60-plus-yard receiving touchdowns (24) in NFL history and ranks second in 50-plus-yard receiving touchdowns (29), trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (36).
He also leads all NFL players in 40-plus-yard receptions (63) since 2008.
Jackson was especially lethal against the Eagles. He averaged 94.8 yards per game against them, the most against any opponent while playing in four or more games. Jackson he admitted that "it was kind of personal."
When the Eagles faced the Bucs last Sept. 16, Jackson hauled in a 75-yard TD pass on the first play of the game. Now, he hopes to do that against the Eagles' opponents.
"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."
Eagles add a linebacker
The Eagles signed linebacker L.J. Fort to a three-year contract Thursday. Fort has played for four teams in seven seasons, the last four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fort is considered a solid backup and good special teams player.
Fort has started just three games in his career, two of them coming last season. The Eagles allowed middle linebacker Jordan Hicks to leave as a free agent Wednesday, and he signed with Arizona.
The Eagles have Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill as expected starters, with Delaware's Paul Worrilow and Nate Gerry as reserves.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.