Coming off a Pro Bowl 2009 season when he caught 63 passes for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns, while also leading the NFL with a 15.2-yard punt return and two punt returns touchdowns, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson spent much of the past two seasons clamoring for a new contract.
All that animosity negatively impacted his on-field production.
Jackson went to the Pro Bowl in 2010 after topping 1,000 yards and averaging an NFL-best 22.5 yards per reception, however, he caught just 47 balls.
Jackson then was a training camp no-show, was benched for a game after missing a team meeting, and generally sulked his way to 56 receptions, 961 yards and four touchdowns while averaging a career-low 6.7 yards on punt returns.
Despite that, Jackson possesses elite talent and the Eagles were not about to let him walk away in free agency. The Eagles placed the $9.515 million franchise tag on Jackson before signing him March 15 to a five-year, $48.5-million contract that includes $18 million in guarantees.
With that new contract in his back pocket, the 25-year-old Jackson has developed a new attitude, reports Jonathan Tameri of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"It was a tough year for myself, had a lot of struggles, had a lot of things that just took me off of my game and my focus," Jackson said. "This year, a lot of that has just been removed, and I'm able to focus and be comfortable and be confident that I'm at a place where I'm wanted. I just really want to be able to bring a championship to the city."
According to Tameri, Jackson has been working out with quarterback Michael Vick in advance of the Eagles' OTAs, which begin on May 22. Jackson has also publicly advised teammate LeSean McCoy (who shares an agent with Jackson) to not hold out of training camp to get the contract extension McCoy has clearly earned.
Offseasons are full of stories about players turning wanting to turn a new leaf, but Jackson's actions and words indicate that he's ready to become the leader his contract is paying him to be.