- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As DeSean Jackson walked into the interview room at Redskins Park on Wednesday, a Redskins ball cap on his head and his signature gold chain drooped over a gray T-shirt, he turned to a team spokesman and asked how long his press conference needed to last.

Across the room, a production assistant good-naturedly joked that Jackson should speak for around 20 minutes.

“[Shoot] no,” Jackson said, suddenly looking down.

The wide receiver had been looking forward to Sunday’s game against Philadelphia for several months, but these moments were not going to be among his highlights. Guarded and largely isolated from the media since joining the Redskins in April, Jackson knew how the next several minutes would unfold.

He’d be probed on his release by the Eagles and the smearing he has endured since, again indirectly dragged through the mud he’s tried for five months to wash off. His answers, therefore, would be deflective — a smattering of innocence, indignation and reproach all molded into each one.

But, Jackson also knew, a press conference would be the only way he could spend the rest of his week focused on football. Ripping off the bandage, he stepped onto the six-inch platform, grasped the wooden podium and stared into the bright lights.

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“I think, honestly, what’s happened has happened,” Jackson said. “It’s in the past. Moving forward in my career is the biggest thing I can really say. I’m not focused on why it happened or why it transpired [or] why it happened the way it happened. I’m not really worried about that.”

The circumstances surrounding Jackson’s release have been laid out, yet they still remain entirely unclear. What’s known is that the wide receiver, a three-time Pro Bowler who still ranks fourth in Eagles history in receiving yards, was kicked to the curb by Philadelphia following the most productive season of his career.

At the time, reports indicated that Eagles coach Chip Kelly had clashed with the wide receiver, and that the organization had grown increasingly weary of the people Jackson had associated himself with.

When asked Wednesday about Jackson’s release, Kelly maintained it was a football-related decision — one made because the team wanted to bring in bigger wide receivers that it felt could more capably fit into its offensive schemes.

As far as concerns about Jackson’s integrity, Kelly insisted he had no concern.

“Zero,” the coach adamantly said.

One of a handful of teams that showed interest in Jackson, Washington signed him to what is essentially a three-year, $24 million contract four days later. Though he missed the first week of offseason workouts because he had previously planned a vacation, coaches and other players have maintained that Jackson has been a model teammate since landing with the Redskins.

His goal has been to stay in the background, focusing more on helping the offense and quietly making progress toward another productive season.

“D-Jack has not been a distraction at all,” said wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard. “I know what’s been written in the past, and all that stuff, but he has a great personality and he’s a real good kid. He wants to do well and he wants to put a good product out on the field. He has a lot of pride, as most of those guys do.”

That confidence took a shot on Sunday, when Jackson was forced from the Redskins’ victory over Jacksonville with a separated left shoulder. Jackson, who did not practice on Wednesday, was downtrodden about being unable to finish the game; he played just 12 snaps and caught only one pass for 19 yards.

On Tuesday, though, he regained his focus. Jackson sent a text message to running back LeSean McCoy, one of his best friends on his former team, letting him know that he’d be playing. McCoy, understanding the sensitivity of Jackson’s situation, said he’s shied away from talking specifically about the game.

“I know him,” McCoy said. “I know what this game means to him, coming back here. I know what type of player he is. He’s always trying to make plays and be there for his teammates, so I’m sure he’ll play this game.”

Remaining before Sunday, though, was the press conference. Jackson spoke of moving on, not just putting his problems in the past but keeping them there. His focus is on the future, on Sunday, about improvement, and after 10 minutes, he stepped away from the spotlight, through a back doorway and into the recesses of the team’s facility.

“I’m not here to be buddy-buddy,” Jackson said. “I want to win football games for this team here. You know, when game time comes, I couldn’t care less about anything else. Burgundy and gold are my colors now, and you know, that’s all I’m gonna focus on. That’s all I’m going to worry about.”

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