NFL confident DeSean release was football decision

Posted: April 26, 2014

NEW YORK - The NFL believes the Eagles released DeSean Jackson based on football reasons and not due to alleged gang connections, according to NFL senior vice president of law and labor policy Adolpho Birch.

"I think we are comfortable that the decisions that were made on both ends were football decisions," Birch said Thursday during a wide-ranging roundtable interview between top NFL officials and members of the Associated Press Sports Editors.

"Both sides, the objective that they sought from a football perspective, they got, whether that be the Eagles or the Redskins. I think the player's going to be in a good position. I think at the end of the day, everyone was comfortable with that."

When Birch was asked what gave the league that impression, he said it was "based on discussions, based on review of the situation." He declined to offer specifics about what was discussed and with whom it was discussed.

No Eagles official has commented on Jackson's release since the team made the decision on March 28. Jackson's release came less than one hour after an NJ.com report about Jackson's alleged gang connections. The Inquirer learned that the impetus for the team's decision was a combination of factors that include the wide receiver's off-field behavior and the effect it would have in the locker room.

The Eagles had tried to trade Jackson, but believed the Pro Bowl receiver was virtually untradeable after the report emerged. Jackson has since signed with Washington. When Birch was asked about Jackson's alleged gang connections, he said there's "certainly no indication that the club reviewed or looked at anything like that" when releasing Jackson.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was available on Thursday because there was no NFL draft on Thursday night. Normally, the draft would have been this week, but the NFL pushed it back two weeks because of Radio City Music Hall's schedule.

"It hasn't really affected the calendar dramatically - from a football standpoint, it's moved everything back a little bit," Goodell said. "But from our standpoint, it's another two weeks people are talking about the draft. It wasn't designed that way. It was designed purely because we had a conflict at Radio City. So we're looking at how we can continue to make the draft bigger and better."

One way that Goodell mentioned was potentially taking the draft on the road to different venues. He said calculated changes such as moving to prime time and shortening rounds have helped the draft.

Former Eagles standout Troy Vincent, now the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, also emphasized that a later draft could push more players to finish their college education and earn degrees. It also means that rookies will join the teams deeper into the offseason.

One rookie who will receive considerable attention is Michael Sam, who is set to become the first NFL player who is openly gay. The workplace environment was a major point of discussion at the league meetings in March. Former NFL player Wade Davis, who came out after his career, spoke at the meetings.

The league expects that Sam will find a professional environment. Vincent said he played with six openly gay players in 15 seasons, and they were accepted into the locker room.

"We didn't see them any differently," Vincent said. "We watched film together. We traveled together. They were our roommates on the road. We just performed. They're players. We don't look at them any differently, and I don't think the players today would treat them any differently."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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