DeSean Jackson called in his Mr. Miyagi.
Gary Cablayan, Jackson’s long-time trainer, flew from Southern California to Philadelphia on Tuesday to assist the Eagles wide receiver as he recovers from an abdominal injury that has caused him to miss three-plus games this season.
Cablayan, who also trains Olympic-level sprinters, has been Jackson’s speed guy for nearly 25 years. He might know the 32-year-old’s body better than anyone. And with Jackson finally able to run with some pace, Cablayan was summoned this week.
“He’s feeling like he can move now,” Cablayan said Wednesday, “so it’s just trying to get back up to some faster speeds and getting his body ready. It’s just giving him that confidence with me here. When you have that much history, there’s a comfort in what that person brings to the table, that knows your body.”
Jackson is unlikely to play Sunday at the Vikings. He didn’t practice and didn’t condition while the team worked out indoors Wednesday, which Eagles coach Doug Pederson had said was possible. Cablayan said in a phone interview that he would stay through Sunday.
The goal is to have Jackson back by next week, so he can prepare for a divisional showdown at the Cowboys on Oct. 20. But Cablayan said it would be difficult to set a return date so early in a trial-and-error process.
“Everything has to be progressed in a slow manner,” Cablayan said. “You just can’t go out there and jump right back into what we used to do. It’s a fine thing you have to go through, making sure that you’re doing enough, but not too much. Slowly progressing, but in a smart way.”
Jackson never had an abdomen injury before, Cablayan said. It isn’t common on NFL injury lists. On Wednesday’s list, for example, Jackson’s injury was the only one of the more than 100 to be labeled as “abdomen.”
After Jackson left Game 2 against the Falcons game in the first quarter, the Eagles announced that he had a groin injury . But they changed it to an abdomen three days later, when they issued their next injury report.
Pederson said Monday that is was a strain “as far as I know.” Asked whether the injury was a hernia and whether Jackson could potentially need surgery, the coach said, “No, nothing like that. Just rehab.”
Cablayan also said it wasn’t a hernia.
“It’s a small tear,” he said, “but it’s something that’s already healing, and he’s able to move at slower speeds.”
Still, as with any soft-tissue strain, a setback and further tearing could lead to a more significant injury, and in the case of the abdomen and groin area, a hernia. Cablayan said that in his experience, abdomen injuries aren’t common for sprinters, but that doesn’t make it easier to recover from.
“You’re always keeping that area tense to make changes to accelerate, so it’s something you use a ton, which is the reason why it’s taking so long,” he said. “It’s hard to take off. You sit down to get back up, and you use it just for those two things. If you sneeze, you feel it.
"So I’m working on different aspects, getting more blood flowing there. A lot of manual manipulation of the body, to just kind of get it flowing again, get things firing.”
Hamstring injuries are the most-frequent soft-tissue injuries for track athletes, Cablayan said. In 2015, Jackson missed six games with the Redskins because of a hamstring strain. Cablayan, the CEO and director of performance at Evo Sports Training, was flown to Washington to help with the recovery, and Jackson returned shortly thereafter.
Jackson’s preference, Cablayan said, is to be 100% healthy, or as close as possible, before he returns. NFL players often play through injuries, however, and it becomes a matter of pain management.
“A lot of it is, if you go back too early, is it going to tear more? And then he’s out even longer,” Cablayan said. “That’s the kind of a thin line you got to play. He’s like, ‘I got to get back to a certain level, but I don’t want to get back too soon,’ where you’re gone for the rest of the season.
“Time’s ticking, and I think that’s one of the biggest things on his mind.”
Jackson has missed 17 games to injury in the last five seasons. In his first seven seasons, he missed only nine games because of injury. He’s been sidelined by two concussions and foot, rib, shin, hamstring, shoulder, ankle, thumb, Achilles and abdomen injuries.
His size — the Eagles list him at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds — scared some teams from drafting him in 2008. While he has missed his share of time in 12 seasons, Jackson has in many respects exceeded career-length expectations.
“I remember when I was a rookie, Jerry Rice, I worked out with him, and he always told me, ‘You take less hits, you can play a longer time,’ ” Jackson said last month. “So I just try to take [fewer] hits.”
Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, for example, has a significant size advantage at 6-3 and 217 pounds, and yet he has endured his share of injuries during his eight-year career. He’s missed 17 games, including 12 over the last five seasons.
But Jackson’s number will climb at least for one more week.
Pederson said the receiver’s recent injury history factored little into the Eagles’ decision to trade for him and extend his contract last offseason.
“It’s part of it, but it’s not what makes or breaks the deal,” Pederson said Wednesday. “We knew the type of player we were getting, the explosiveness, an electric player, and a player that wanted to be back in Philly. The injury part didn’t factor into it much at all.”
Jackson had an immediate impact in his first game back with the Eagles last month. He caught eight passes for 154 yards with 51- and 53-yard touchdown grabs. He was clocked at 21.4 mph on the first score — the third-fastest time in Week 1, according to NFL Next Gen stats.
“That’s pretty good for someone 32, right?” Jackson said a few days later. “And that’s not 100%, either.”
But having Jackson on the field would be short-lived. The next game, he left during the Eagles’ second possession -- shortly after Jeffery injured his calf and departed -- and tried to return. But after two plays, he was done for the night.
Aside from Cablayan, Jackson has had a team of trainers and coaches work with him during his offseasons. He often has said that training like an Olympian sprinter has helped him maintain his speed.
“Everybody used to always give me a hard time, ‘You never really lift weights like that,’ ” Jackson said in March. “I would lift enough, but instead of lifting weights, I’m standing on a track field.”
He acknowledged, however, that he didn’t always take the necessary precautionary measures to stay healthy when he was younger.
“I could just wake up, [get] out of my bed, and go run,” Jackson said. “I used to always say, ‘Cheetahs don’t stretch.’ And I look at myself as a cheetah. But, now, I’m a little older, and these joints, they hurt a little more.”
Still, Jackson is the only Eagles player, aside from 37-year-old tackle Jason Peters, who goes through his own routine with a personal trainer, who doesn’t stretch with the team during pre-practice warmups. He stands to the side and mostly talks to coaches or team personnel.
Pederson and teammates, however, have spoken about Jackson’s growth since his first stint with the Eagles.
“In his past, he would pull himself out of practice from time to time or whatever it might be, but he doesn’t do that,” Pederson said last month. “He wants to practice. And he wants to be with his guys.”
But he wants to play on Sundays more than anything. Cablayan said that over-30 athletes, at least until they’re in their mid-30s, aren’t appreciably prone to more injuries. But when they do get hurt, it takes longer to come back.
“What does change is your recovery time,” Cablayan said. “DeSean’s speed is there. His strength is there. Now it’s just healing.”