This is the NFL.
There is no lesson to be taught by staring down an immature nonprofessional. He is too valuable. He is irreplaceable.
Jackson wants a long-term, big-money contract extension. He has clearly displayed that he will not play to his potential unless he gets an extension to his liking - not a franchise tag, as the Eagles can issue after this season to tie him to them.
Jackson's most recent sin against sportsmanship came last night. According to an NFL Network report, the network that aired last night's 31-14 loss to the Seaheawks, Jackson refused to speak with teammates during the game.
Jackson abruptly dismissed that report. Any hint of dissension between him and his teammates clearly bothered him - angered him, really, for the first time.
"I'm not gonna sit here and listen to those questions," he fumed. "My teammates know what it is . . . God . . . Ya'll need to get out of my face before I go off. Ya'll crazy."
He may be right.
We may be crazy.
An Eagles representative insisted that the report was incorrect; maliciously so, in fact.
Jackson also was seen laughing with Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch near the sideline while Eagles teammate Nnamdi Asomugha lay on the ground . . . with a terrifying head and neck injury.
Unconscionable, by Lynch; worse, by Jackson.
Unintentional, surely, by both.
Pay him anyway.
Jackson is the Eagles' best defense against the Eagles' lack of defense. He is their most potent weapon. He makes LeSean McCoy a lethal weapon. He makes Michael Vick a star.
Jackson even makes Vince Young competent.
But when Jackson does not play hard, or well, or at all, they do not score.
He haunts the dreams of defensive coaches. He draws two defenders whenever the Eagles line up wide. He deserves them.
He is the most gifted receiver in team history. Not the best; the most gifted.
He proved the team needs him more than he needs it.
He held out in training camp . . . and, when he showed up, the team was 20 percent better. The minute he stepped on the field, it was that much better.
He was benched for the game against Arizona because he didn't attend a pregame meeting, claiming he overslept. The Eagles' offense was paralyzed without him. He acknowledged he has not been focused this season, with the contract issue looming.
If he'd been paid, surely Jackson would have bought a better alarm clock.
So, pay him.
He returned the next week against the Giants. He cost the Eagles a 50-yard bomb when he crassly flipped a reception at the Giants' defensive coordinator . . . but he helped win the game with a big punt return, a couple of long catches and the threat of him playing hard.
If he'd been paid, surely Jackson would have simply flipped the ball to an official . . . and he would even have dispensed with the post-flip preening. He acknowledged afterward that he had recommitted himself to practicing hard and playing the game hard.
That didn't last.
Jackson returned Sunday against the Patriots, short-armed two passes, one of which could have been a touchdown. That was one of two TDs he surely would have caught . . . had his financial future been better secured. He acknowledged that, with quarterback Vince Young soft-tossing passes that get receivers clobbered, he was worried about his health.
Eagles hard-line coach Andy Reid, who prizes toughness almost as much as he prizes promptness, benched Jackson for the last part of the game against the Patriots.
Reid considered benching him for last night's game, too. He could not bring himself to do it.
He cannot bring himself to pay him, either.
Jackson will make only $600,000 this season, the final year of his 4-year rookie contract. He has gone to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.
Six-hundred grand? Please. He is worth 10 or 15 times as much, for each of the next 5 years.
Last night, isolated and uninterested, he caught four passes for 34 yards, though only one for 5 yards in the first 39 minutes of the game. Surely, he would have fought harder to get open with new money in his bank.
Surely, he would have cared more.
Because he couldn't have cared less.
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