Since he was drafted in 2008, DeSean Jackson has been one of the NFL’s most exciting talents, responsible for, amongst other plays, this back-breaking punt return against the Giants (look away, Sam). He also made some positive waves for his stance against bullying.
And, apparently, some less-than-ideal vibes for his association with alleged Crip members.
Despite the good, that last, glaring negative may have been enough to push the Philadelphia Eagles to release the receiver, per USA Today.
“On its face, the decision to trade [note: Jackson was on the trade block for weeks preceding his release] one of the NFL’s most talented players would seem curious: At 27, Jackson is coming off one of the best seasons of his career — 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Plus, he’s a playmaker who should thrive for seasons to come in head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense.
Yet the Eagles’ apparent interest in jettisoning Jackson likely has little to do with his performance on the field or a big-money contract that could squeeze the team’s salary cap. Rather, sources close to Jackson and within the Eagles’ organization say, it’s Jackson’s off-field behavior that concerns the front office. A bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly are the reasons, sources told NJ.com. And when the Eagles looked more deeply into why Jackson was missing meetings, they found that his friends were becoming a more powerful — and negative — influence in his life.
Now the Eagles have even more serious concerns — Jackson’s continued association with reputed Los Angeles street gang members who have been connected to two homicides since 2010.”
The article brings up the New England Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez, and how, obviously, no team wants to suffer the PR black eye that the Pats had to endure during the Hernandez ordeal.
As with most controversial decisions, arguments can be made for both sides of the coin. Yes, it is within the Eagles’ right to release whoever they see fit. And let’s honest with ourselves about something:
Nobody reading this knows more about the situation than the people pulling the strings. ESPN doesn’t (side-note: STFU, Ron Jaworski), either. We can sit here and and bemoan Jackson’s fate, speculate, talk about how race is involved and how corporate America is scared of a street-smart black man.
At the end of the day, the Eagles want to win a Super Bowl like every other team, and losing DeSean Jackson represents a major blow to those hopes. They wouldn’t have cut him unless they truly thought that DeSean was a threat to himself, others around him, the team, or a combination of the three.
Which leads us to Jackson’s official statement via Adam Schefter that disputes every gang-related claim that you’re sure to hear over the next week.
“First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly. I would also like to thank coach Andy Reed for bringing me in. Secondly, I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true . I look forward to working hard for my new team. God Bless.”
Two different sides of the story, and until more details trickle out – always a possibility – let’s not follow ESPN’s penchant for jumping to conclusions. I choose to believe that – because of his willingness to give back to the community, because nobody talking about DeSean can actually relate to where he’s coming from, because I want to believe that one of the most exciting players in football is a decent human being who deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps Philadelphia misjudged his character, and that he will make another team very, very happy. Others will choose to believe that he’s a rotten apple, and as much as I disagree, we’re all grabbing our opinions from the same limited pile of information.
The only thing that we know, for sure, is that DeSean will have his shot at redemption soon enough.
At least four teams reached out to DeSean Jackson’s agent, Joel Segal, in first 30 minutes after he was relesaed. Talks ongoing.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2014