DeSean Jackson showing he is worth a pay raise

Posted: September 12, 2011

ST. LOUIS - DeSean Jackson spoke for himself Sunday.

With his actions on the field and with his words in the postgame locker room, Jackson made it clear that he will play just as hard and just as well as ever. The speculation that he might be preoccupied with his contract situation, and that he might skimp on effort or energy, was proven wrong with his first reception of the 2011 season.

Jackson had two defenders draped on him as he went up for Michael Vick's pass. He came down with the ball and without his helmet. It was a tough catch by a tough kid, and Jackson celebrated by jumping up and signaling for a first down.

"That was a very emotional play, a big-time play," Jackson said. "Vick did a great job of giving me a chance to make a play on the ball. He just threw it up into double coverage, and I was still able to come down with it."

It would have been an easy play not to make, if Jackson were so inclined. Instead, it was a 41-yard gain that accounted for just over half the yardage on the Eagles' first touchdown drive. The play also was a reminder to anyone who might have forgotten what kind of impact Jackson has.

He is right to be dissatisfied with the rookie contract that will pay him $560,000 for this season. He was within his rights to hold out at the beginning of training camp.

He was smart, though, to return in time to prepare for the season. And now he is smartly taking the highest possible road, accepting punt return duties without complaint and playing all out.

"Actually," Jackson said, "I'm playing with an extra edge out there. It's kind of like my rookie year when everybody said I was too small. Just all the negative things. I just use everything I can as an edge."

For this season opener, that included the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It wasn't difficult to keep the hardship of being a relatively underpaid professional athlete in perspective.

"Today's a big day, with 9-11," Jackson said. "With all the soldiers that were killed, the families that lost loved ones, I just want to give it up for them. I played this game for them today."

On Saturday, Jackson's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, visited the Eagles' hotel here. Around the league, several teams finalized contract extensions with star players. The Pittsburgh Steelers gave safety Troy Polamalu a four-year extension worth a reported $36.5 million. The Minnesota Vikings handed Adrian Peterson a seven-year deal worth nearly $100 million. Dallas signed Jason Witten for four more years and about $37 million.

Those teams didn't want important players going into the season worried about their contracts. Jackson noticed. It is a sign of his increasing maturity that he didn't let it get to him.

"The only thing I can do is control what I'm going to do, which is go out there and play football and make as many plays as possible," Jackson said. "It's challenging at times, especially when you see a lot of things going on out there in the market. I just try to stay patient. I know my time is coming soon."

Because of his role in Terrell Owens' meltdown in 2005, Rosenhaus is vilified by Eagles fans. And yes, he earned a fair bit of that. But Rosenhaus is in the mix here, too, and his client is doing everything right.

"The atmosphere, the relationship with the Eagles is real good lately," Jackson said. "I just keep doing what I need to do, continue to work hard and keep my mouth quiet and just have fun."

He is taking two major risks by playing. He could get hurt and never see the major payday his skills and accomplishments are worth, or he could play badly and hurt his value. Those risks are related. Fear of an injury could affect performance.

"You know this game is very dangerous, and an injury or anything can happen," Jackson said, "but I just leave it in God's hands."

His own hands are pretty reliable, too. Jackson did drop a deep pass Sunday, but he also caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown before the Eagles started handing the ball to LeSean McCoy. If the team had needed more from him, Jackson would have delivered more.

For all the changes the Eagles made in the offseason, they remain reliant on the sublime athleticism of Vick and Jackson. They are capable of turning any play call into an indelible memory.

Vick was rewarded with a big new contract. Jackson waits. While he does, he keeps proving just how valuable he really is. Is he worth elite receiver money? That speaks for itself.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at http://go.philly.com/philabuster. Read his past columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

 

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