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DeSean Jackson, Eagles eager to put nightmare year in rearview

PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick couldn't believe DeSean Jackson said the diva days are behind him. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback did a double take, started laughing and then asked if he actually used the word "diva."

OK, no, he didn't. But when someone else did, the 25-year old receiver started shaking his head. And when the word was used again, he put up his hand and said, "I'm just glad to get that all over with and move forward with my life and my career. And hopefully this year win a Super Bowl."

So, in sum, new contract in hand, you're officially done being a diva, DeSean?

"Yes," he said.

That work for you, Michael?

"I'm happy and he's happy and that's the way it should be right now," Vick said, still laughing. But there's a remarkable truth in his words, too, and in what Vick said a beat later, about having clear heads. Long gone is the man who pronounced the 2011 Eagles the "Dream Team" (see: Young, Vince); so too are the days of the Eagles believing their roster entitles them to a championship.

It was only one full-squad practice on Tuesday, but it was a lot of players echoing the same thoughts -- they have a lot to prove, there was too much off-field noise last year and things are different now. Jackson said the Eagles do better with their collective back against the wall than when they're certain of their ascension. Tight end Brent Celek off-handedly said, "There won't be talk of anything, everyone has their money." Even newcomer DeMeco Ryans said the sense of urgency was palpable to him.

"And I fit right into that," the former Houston Texans linebacker said. I have a lot to prove, too, coming in with high expectations and wanting to show I can still play."

And so, after "proving," "playing" has been the operative word in Philadelphia. Not talking, not boasting, not loafing. Veteran receiver Jason Avant put attendance for offseason conditioning at 99 percent, and Vick, pointing back at the Eagles' NovaCare Center, guessed he's spent 65 percent of his offseason minutes inside that building. There's no exercise in comparing that to other teams and quarterbacks; the point is in comparing it to the Eagles of a year ago.

Some of it is lockout-related and the same across every team: Last year's Eagles didn't all work out in Philadelphia. Therefore, they didn't all hang out and foster the closeness they've forged this year. Furthermore, they weren't accountable to each other the same way they've been this spring. Nowadays, they look to benefit from the maturity that comes with flipping a page.

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"Just because we're the Philadelphia Eagles, nobody is going to lay down for us," Vick said. "Having a different attitude or mindset means you gotta be prepared and you gotta go out and give it everything you've got. Do whatever it takes to win."

Vick rued not only last year's team, but his own younger self. He said he hated to acknowledge it, but this offseason was unlike any other he's had. He's huddled with coach Andy Reid for months and spent most of Tuesday morning out on the practice field nodding at whatever Reid had to say. He said he's told Reid he wishes the Eagles had drafted him and then he acknowledged the futility of what-ifs.

"You gotta live in the now," he said. "I gotta take full advantage of the time that I have now."

Jackson said he sees that, and hears it, too. He said all his energy is focused on football, and he pledged that his teammates are, too. He highlighted how even Reid is buying in with tangible sacrifice. The coach has lost so much weight, Jackson called him "agile," teasing, "He's really able to move around with us."

Then again, maybe Jackson wasn't joking around. The competitive juices are so high right now, Jackson said he "would like to race Reid." And yes, those were his actual words.

Follow Aditi Kinkhabwala on Twitter @AKinkhabwala

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