Was it unwise for the Philadelphia Eagles to release DeSean Jackson? Maybe. Was it an unfair punishment for the wide receiver? Possibly. Were some things blown out of proportion? Certainly. Does he have lots to prove when he lands with a new team? Definitely.
DeSean Jackson says he's moving on as he moves through the airport http://t.co/4YfkIzrPud— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) April 1, 2014
Jackson's possible connections with southern California gangs ran rampant through the headlines after a troubling report by Eliot Shorr-Parks and A.J. Perez of NJ.com surfaced on Friday.
In the report, one of the reasons for Jackson's ultimate dismissal from the team became clear. A source with the team said, "They are concerned about having him around the younger players."
That's a little vague considering it may not relate to the receiver's alleged gang connections.
After all, according to a Facebook post from ESPN's Adam Schefter, Jackson vehemently denied the allegations:
First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly. I would also like to thank coach Andy Reid for bringing me in. Secondly, I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true. I look forward to working hard for my new team. God Bless.
The statement from Jackson seemed genuine. After all, he's been instrumental off the field, helping children cope with bullying.
For a guy who is supposedly in a gang, DeSean Jackson sure is getting a lot of interest from NFL teams.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) April 1, 2014
So, the alleged gang ties looked to have been blown out of proportion, and Jackson has done some good in his team's community in the past. What does he have to prove?
Jackson needs to prove that he can act like a professional on a consistent basis.
The Eagles parted ways with the receiver for more than just the aforementioned reason. In the NJ.com report, team sources spoke of other off-field concerns with Jackson:
Rather, sources close to Jackson and within the Eagles' organization say, it originally was Jackson's off-field behavior that concerned the front office. A bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly were the original reasons for his fall from grace, sources told NJ.com.
All of these things boil down to a simple lack of maturity. Jackson has been known to be rather lackadaisical on the field already, and this is just the icing on the cake.
Bill Polian thinks DeSean Jackson wore out his welcome with Chip Kelly; why he didn't want to draft him. Audio: http://t.co/DzVM4MJlos— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) April 1, 2014
Jackson can come out of this situation a huge winner if he does the right things going forward.
It's simple: Show up to meetings on time, be a good example for younger players, maintain a strong work ethic and keep up the on-field prowess. These are the things that a professional athlete should be doing on a daily basis—it's not asking much from Jackson.
When he lands with a new team—which should be soon considering all of the interest—getting off to a good start is a necessity. If he truly wants to defend his intentions, as he said in his statement, these are the things he must prove—not only to his new team, but to media and fans as well.
If Jackson can turn it around in a new environment, he could make the Eagles sorely regret releasing him in the first place.