When DeSean Jackson picked up the phone last Friday, Chip Kelly was on the other line telling him he was being released.
But according to Jackson, the Eagles’ head coach didn’t offer up any specific explanation.
“The conversation I had with Chip Kelly was a deep, personal conversation,” Jackson said during an interview with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN. “But at the same time, when he called me, it was basically like, ‘We’re moving forward. I think it’s best for the team. I think it’s best for yourself.’ I was sitting there waiting for a reason why, but that’s really all I can say from the conversation was: ‘We’re moving forward and I think it’s best for us and I think it’s best for you so basically we’re going to let you go negotiate with 31 other teams.’
“The first time, once he told me, I sat there and was like… I want to hear what he’s gonna say, so waiting and waiting and waiting. And he came back with the same reason. It was more going in a new direction. And he felt it was best for me, best for him, so that’s kind of where we left it. I got off the phone, I was like, ‘You sure? That’s it?’ And we hung up. And that was it.”
Four days before his release, Jackson got another call from Kelly, who was down at the owners meetings in Orlando. After that conversation, Jackson seemed to think everything was good with his head coach.
But obviously they weren’t. According to a CBS Philly report, Jackson cussed Kelly out several times in front of the team and was generally insubordinate. But Jackson didn’t think he and Kelly had any major issues.
“I think I had a good relationship with Chip Kelly,” he said. “I think when he came into Philadelphia and did in one year, had some great success there. I felt everything went good last year. I had one of the best years of my career so there’s no negativity there. I’m not here to bad-mouth him or say anything to put dirt on his name. It’s once again a business that we play in.”
Asked to compare Kelly to Andy Reid, Jackson said: “Andy Reid was a father figure in my life. He came in and stepped up and drafted me when I felt I slipped in the draft and gave me the opportunity to come to Philadelphia and put my talents on the field and on that level to go out there and do some great things. He embraced me like almost his son. He was familiar with where I was from. He was a California guy as well. And I kind of supported him with his situation too with his kids and things like that. So it kind of goes back and forth. But me and Andy Reid still to this day, throughout this whole process, he was a shoulder I leaned on through this and he helped me.”
Smith read the following CBS Philly quote to Jackson.
“The fact is, [Jackson] was a ‘me-guy’ with an attitude problem and [Maclin] is the complete opposite, a team guy, a great character guy you go to war with,” said one source. “Funny how [Jackson] has this anti-bully thing and he thought he could push [Kelly] around; he found out otherwise. His being cut had nothing to do with the gang stuff. The team knew it. Everyone knew he had ‘ties.’ Those were his guys. That’s okay. What put him out was his selfishness. He can try and spin it all he wants how he’s ‘a team player.’ He’s not.”
Smith attributed the quote to one of Jackson’s former teammates, even though the article did not specify the source.
Asked to respond, Jackson said: “It’s an allegation once again. We’re dealing with someone who has an opinion. How much of that truth to the opinion is real? I don’t live my life going out there and really worrying what the other people say. I try to do things the right way. I try to go out there and be a professional when I’m doing it. Have I always been perfect? Have I always done things the right way? No. Have I learned and found out a better way of doing things? Yes. I think that goes throughout a career. Me coming into the NFL at 20-years-old, being very young, not knowing the right/wrong thing to do, I had to learn. I’m not perfect. No one is. But at the end of the day, I’m gonna learn how to do it the right way and I’m gonna do it the right way.”
Jackson added that he’s probably missed one meeting in his entire career.
“For sure I have been late,” he said. “I’m not gonna lie about that. I’ve been late to meetings before. I missed one meeting probably out of my whole career. But at the end of the day, once again, we’re not perfect. Things happen.
“Since Day One, since I entered Philadelphia, since I stepped in that locker room first, I put it on the line for my teammates. I feel like I’m always a team guy. I never have not once been a team guy. Everything I do on the field is for my team. It’s not an individual goal that I go out there and catch these passes and score these touchdowns and at the end of the day I’m winning, it’s DeSean Jackson winning. It’s the Philadelphia Eagles that’s winning. So how I feel about that is I don’t think it’s real, I don’t think it’s right. So there you have it.”
Much of the interview focused on the NJ.com story about Jackson’s gang affiliation.
Asked if he felt the Eagles might have leaked that story, he said: “I would hope not.”
Pushed to clarify, he said: “That’s a no.”
As for his overall feelings when learning of the NJ.com report, Jackson revealed that he knew the article was coming before it was published.
“I actually got a chance to hear about it before it came out,” he said. “A couple days before the story came out, I got a call from a guy that I have a great relationship with. And right after he got off the phone with me, then my agent called me as well too and said that’s what the Eagles reported, of some article that was coming out.
“About the article, how I feel about NJ.com, I think it was from my point of view very disrespectful. I don’t think it was right, straight up. The allegations and the things that were said within the article were things from a long time ago that I felt the club and the organization knew about previous years before that. So to sit there come 2014 and you hear all these crazy allegations and crazy stories that half wasn’t even true or whatever the case may be, I was just very disturbed and didn’t like that at all. It was one of them things like, ‘Here we go.’ ”
Jackson spoke well of the connection he formed with fans in Philadelphia.
“I was definitely hurt,” he said of being released.
“…I think the fans have embraced me like no other in Philadelphia. We all know about the Philadelphia fans. And there was just something about them that made me feel great every time I went out onto the field. All the things that I’ve done on the field, it just made me feel great about it. So to be released, it was a humbling experience at the same time, but it definitely hurt because I was at the peak of my career. I came off the best year of six years in the NFL so I can definitely say it hurt, but it’s a business. It’s the NFL.”