Out of the end zone. Back into the end zone. Helmet on. Helmet off. DeSean Jackson followed instructions 10 yards from a boisterous exhaust fan inside the Washington Redskins’ practice bubble on Wednesday.
The duo guiding Jackson futzed with a camera. It was shooting him for a new reality show on BET, “DeSean Jackson: Home Team.” All other players had left the bubble. Jackson paced through the staging work in the back corner of an end zone with a logo-less helmet painted Redskins colors.
Jackson’s arrival in Ashburn at the Redskins’ practice facility ended days of outside handwringing spurred by his absence the prior week. Jackson missed the Redskins’ first voluntary organized team activity of the offseason, providing an early summer tumult. Why wasn’t he there? Did it matter? What does it all mean?
He had things to take care of at home, Jackson explained. He wasn’t specific or evasive, just general. Jackson said he had obligations in California to tend to. His coach, Jay Gruden, knew. Others in the organization knew. His concern about what outsiders think about a missed OTA is minimal, if it exists.
“As far as any criticism from anybody else, I don’t play for them and I don’t worry about them,” Jackson said. “I live my life to do what I need to do, and I had things that was important in my life.”
Last season’s offensive captain, Trent Williams, was apparently not up on the stir Jackson’s absence caused in some circles. He was asked what Jackson brings to the team, in a manner hinting about Jackson’s arrival at OTAs after the initial miss. Williams paused.
“It adds DeSean,” Williams said with a laugh. “He’s a perennial Pro Bowler, he’s a playmaker.”
Jackson was the Redskins’ lone 1,000-yard receiver last year during a season with revolving quarterbacks of middling success. He was second on the team in receptions, 13th in the league in receiving yards and first in the NFL in yards per catch.
On Wednesday, he was placed with the starting offense. Midway through, he caught a pass up the middle seam, then outran trailing defenders. He said afterward he is in shape. That appeared to be the case during what are tackle- and pad-free practices.
“As far as my body, my health, I’m in great shape,” Jackson said. “I’m very familiar with the offense, the system here. It’s not like I have to re-learn something I already know.”
Gruden reiterated it would be nice to have every player at every voluntary workout. He knew Jackson would be absent last week, though he was glad to see him back, taking the first steps toward being in sync with quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“They have lives,” Gruden said. “This is a major part of what they do. Obviously, we’d loved everyone to be here, 100 percent. I don’t know how many teams have 100 percent, but I think we’ve had great participation overall from top to bottom of our roster. He missed a little bit of time, but he had reasons for it.
“I trust the fact that when he does come back — and he has come back — that he’ll be in great shape. He’s a veteran guy. He knows the system. He’s an extremely intelligent person. I would have loved to have had him here, but it’s his choice not to be here. He came back, he looks like he is in great shape. He didn’t miss a beat.”
Jackson is entering the second season of what is essentially a three-year, $24 million contract with the Redskins. He played with three quarterbacks last season — Griffin, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy — who combined to finish 11th in the league in total passing yards. Wednesday was the first time Jackson had worked with Griffin, who was labeled the No. 1 quarterback in February and had his hefty 2016 contract option picked up, since last season. If the two play out their contracts in Washington, they will have the next two years to establish some form of fluidity.
“It’s only going to get better,” Jackson said of the timing between he and Griffin. “I look forward to him growing, and me growing, and us growing together.”
Being back on the field helps that process. Even if it’s the first week of June.