After an 11-day absence, Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson is back in Lehigh. Back with his teammates. Back with his coaches. Back with the adoring fans. And he's ready to get to work.
"It feels good to be back," Jackson said during an impromptu press conference following the Monday afternoon walkthrough, his first practice of this training camp. "I've just been sitting around kind of itching, waiting just to get back out here with my teammates. The atmosphere, everything feels good. With the lockout being so long, with the lockout ending, I've just been kind of sitting around waiting. I feel good to be back and I'm happy to be back out here with my teammates."
Jackson, of course, was home in California. The dynamic playmaker is entering the final year of his rookie contract (he was drafted in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft) and acknowledged that "it's obvious" he would like a new contract. Still, emphasized that the past couple weeks are behind him. Now, he's ready to prepare for what he hopes will be a Super Bowl season.
"I'm here now. I'm ready to just move forward," he said. "I know what I've accomplished the past three years, the games I've helped win, the hard work I've put in here at Lehigh and back in Philadelphia, the things I've done in the community."
The 5-foot-10 overachiever has become one the league's most feared players over his first three seasons. In 2009, he became the first player to be named a Pro Bowler at two positions – wide receiver and return specialist. In 2010, he led the NFL with 22.5 yards per reception.
"My first three years the things I accomplished, it's been off the charts but there's still always room for improvement," Jackson said. "That's one thing I realized. Being an Eagle this year is something I look forward to. I've always wanted to be an Eagle. Because I held out a couple of days or whatever it was, that doesn't mean I don't want to be an Eagle. Like I said, I just had to handle what I had to handle. I'm here, I'm ready to move forward, I'm ready to play football, I'm ready to help win games. I love this city and everything."
Monday's walkthrough was the first time Jackson shared the field with the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha (a fellow California alumnus), Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Jason Babin and the rest of the Eagles' impressive free-agent haul. But from afar, how did Jackson react when he heard news of his team's additions?
"I always thought of it as being a good thing, us as the Philadelphia Eagles being so close to the Super Bowl the past three years I've been here," Jackson said. "Our competitive nature is so close. I always did feel if we added a couple more big-time players to come in and help out, it would always be helpful. Myself and the guys that have been here from the ground up, Shady McCoy, (Jeremy) Maclin, Brent Celek, (Mike) Vick, I've stayed in contact with them throughout the whole time. They kind of understood my point but I never really got disappointed. It's a good thing at the end of the day because I am a part of this team and having additions like Nnamdi (Asomugha) and (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), these are guys that I'm real good friends with. So they kind of always uplifted me when I was going through my situations. We just always kept it positive. Me sitting out and me holding out, that's the past and it's kind of over and done with. Now I'm presenting myself, I'm here and I'm just ready to move forward. Like I said, hopefully everything will work out in a positive way."
Just because he hasn't been in Lehigh doesn't mean Jackson hasn't been preparing for the season ahead. Jackson said he's been working out every day near his home in California and will be ready to take on the physicality of the season ahead. Though he likely won't play in the team's preseason opener Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, Jackson is expected to be a full participant in the next practice, this Saturday morning.
"I love Philadelphia," Jackson said. "I love the fans here. Coming back out here onto the field, the fans showed me a lot of love and stuff. I just want to keep that positive thing going."