Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson spoke Wednesday about things he has learned lately, chief among them being that you need to know “what it is that you’re putting out there in the world” on social media.
On July 4th weekend, Jackson chose to “put out there” to his 1.4 million Instagram followers some material from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, including a quote that Farrakhan falsely attributed to Hitler, about Jews knowing that Blacks were the true children of Israel.
A couple of apology attempts followed, sandwiched around a fine for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and a denunciation from the Eagles and team owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Jackson pledged to educate himself and agreed to visit Auschwitz with a Holocaust survivor named Edward Mosberg whenever that can be arranged in a post-pandemic world.
“Over the past few months, I kind of had to reflect on life and just, you know, people make mistakes in life, and it was a mistake I made and I had to own up to it as a man, which I did,” Jackson said Wednesday. “But I think I’m taking the proper steps to educate [myself] and learn from something I didn’t really know very much about.”
Wednesday was the first time Jackson has answered questions from the Eagles media corps since his 2019 season officially ended in November, after a failed attempt to heal a core-muscle injury through rest.
Medical sources said surgery right away would have been the better way to go after the problem took Jackson out of the Eagles' Week 2 loss to Atlanta. On Wednesday, Jackson finally conceded the point. It’s ancient history now, but with surgery after Week 2, Jackson presumably would have been healthy long before the playoffs, and the Eagles might have won that wild-card playoff game against Seattle. He said Wednesday that he was aiming to play the next week if the Eagles got past the Seahawks.
“If I could do it all over again, I probably would get surgery the first time around, but you live and you learn. … I never had surgery before, so I never knew how that worked out, but that injury, a core injury, is something very different, it’s something I never experienced before,” he said.
Jackson wasn’t eager to detail the specific steps he has taken to atone for the social media posts; he was more interested in talking about his social justice work.
“Honestly, man, there’s numerous things. I think everything I’ve done has been out there,” he said. "Once again, it’s a situation I’ve learned from. I’m not going to sit here and make this the topic of discussion, because I owned up to it, and I said my apology, and took the proper steps to enlighten myself and learn from it. And I want to take the time to say there’s a lot of things going on in this world, and I just feel like my voice is to be heard. And obviously, with the situations that we’re dealing with in the community that I was raised in, in the ‘Black Lives’ community, there’s a lot going on in the world that we’re living [in] today. So I don’t want to take the time away from me playing football and some of the serious topics that I’m working on in my communities, and where I come from.
“So if you can, let’s talk about football, or let’s talk about some of the social injustice things going on out there in the world.”
Jackson is 33 now; this will be his 13th NFL season. His hair is much longer and his beard less scraggly than when he was a rookie who made his debut in a 38-3 Eagles thrashing of the hapless St. Louis Rams on Sept. 7, 2008, at Lincoln Financial Field. Jackson caught six Donovan McNabb passes for 106 yards that day. No one he played alongside is still an NFL player.
Jackson’s Week 1 return to the Eagles last year, after a five-year, Chip Kelly-imposed exile, was even more spectacular than his rookie debut. He caught eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-27 Eagles victory. It was the only time all season the Eagles showed longball capability.
Now, Jackson is healthy again, and in training camp, he didn’t seem any slower. He is hoping a yoga regimen and stretching can help him stave off the day when he has to join the 52 Eagles teammates from that 2008 opener, now watching the NFL on TV.
“Man, good question,” Jackson said, when asked how good he can be this season. "Like you said, 33 years old and in the league, 13 years in, the expectation level might drop, people might not see me as a vocal guy, but one thing I can say is … the one game I did play [extensively] in last year, I think whoever was watching that game knows what DeSean Jackson can still do.
"My whole career, I’ve always been against the odds, so I look forward to this year. But I ain’t going to speak too much, I’m just going to show it. I’m going to show it on Sunday. I know what I’m capable of doing. I’ve got a lot of juice left in me, so for everybody sitting at home, get your popcorn ready, and get ready for Sunday.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson touted Jackson’s leadership of a young wide-receiving corps when Pederson spoke with reporters Wednesday.
“DeSean has done an outstanding job for us, not only as a player but now probably more so in this role,” Pederson said. “I think DeSean knows where he is in his career, and those that have kind of mentored him along the way. And now he’s kind of in that same role where he can mentor these young guys. It’s one of the things that I take notice of with him out at practice, being able to talk to our young players and young receivers and teach them the game. DeSean has always played it at an extremely high level. He’s a great pro, takes his job seriously, and that’s what he’s instilling in our young players now.”
Jalen Reagor is a first-round rookie, John Hightower and Quez Watkins fifth- and sixth-rounders. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is a second-rounder from 2019.
“The young guys, they’ve been showing nothing but fierce competitive natures, man, they work hard, they’re loving to ask questions, the uncomfortable questions, you get what I’m saying?” Jackson said.
No one followed up and asked what he meant, but in other answers, Jackson spoke of not worrying enough about taking care of his body when he was younger.
“A lot of young guys coming up in this league, they’re given the spotlight right away, depending on draft stature or whatever the case may be. But it’s something you’ve got to earn in this league, and that doesn’t go unnoticed. So the biggest thing I can tell these young guys to do is to just go out and earn whatever it is you want, and I look forward to Sunday,” Jackson said.
“This has been a long time coming. It seems like the season has taken forever to come, but, shoot, we’re a couple days away now.”