Updated: Jason Avant will start in place of DeSean Jackson today, the Eagles said, in announcing their inactives. Also out, in addition to Jackson are third quarterback Mike Kafka, S Nate Allen, CB Curtis Marsh, LG Evan Mathis, OT Winston Justice, and DE Phillip Hunt.
This means DE Juqua Parker is active with the persistent high ankle sprain that caused him to be listed as questionable for today's game against the Cards.
Earlier: When the Eagles’ inactives are announced about 90 minutes before gametime today, there will be one very large surprise.
Wideout DeSean Jackson missed a meeting yesterday and was told he would not be in uniform for today’s encounter with the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field, a source close to the situation told the Daily News. A team source confirmed the news.
This is the way the Birds generally handle such matters – several years ago, running back Correll Buckhalter was late for a meeting and received the same punishment. But Jackson's is a much more ticklish situation.
Jackson, who turns 25 next month, is in his second season of dissatisfaction over risking injury while underpaid, playing as he unsuccessfully seeks a new contract from the team. Last year, Eagles president Joe Banner agreed that Jackson deserved a new deal but said complications with the rules governing the expiring collective bargaining agreement made it impossible to give Jackson a significant raise. This year, there is a new collective barganing agreement and the sides have talked, but no accord has been reached, and none seems forthcoming.
Last Monday marked a league deadline for pushing bonus money under this year’s cap; that night, Jackson was targeted eight times and caught just two passes, for 16 yards, against the Bears. An Eagles source has said the deadline didn’t mean the Eagles will be unable to do new deals with Jackson or anyone else, that the team didn’t consider the deadline a big deal. But again, nothing seems imminent.
Jackson, whose fumbled punt just before halftime Monday night led to a Chicago touchdown, told reporters Friday that he is doing his best.
“ Of course, everybody in this locker room can say there's something they can get better at, so I'm not sitting here saying there's nothing I can get better at, but at the end of the day, I'm putting my best effort up and I'm trying my hardest," Jackson said.
Jackson is in the final season of his four-year rookie contract, making about $600,000. If the Eagles don’t sign him to a new deal, they can still franchise him, at about $13 million next season, instead of losing a two-time Pro Bowl player to free agency.
Under this management, there is a long history of players trying to get new contracts from the Eagles ending up feeling ill-used. In the locker room, it’s almost assumed that if you are in a tough negotiation with the front office, playing time and stats will be affected, and you could end up having to get that contract somewhere else.
The Birds aren’t sitting Jackson today because of the contract impasse, but Jackson’s frustration and disappointment certainly could have contributed to him missing the meeting. Though no one has said so publicly, there is a strong feeling in the Jackson camp that one reason the deal hasn’t gotten done is concern over Jackson’s attitude and demeanor – concern Jackson’s associates feel is unwarranted. Jackson has gained national attention as an anti-bullying spokesman, works to raise money to fight the cancer that killed his father, and has undertaken other local charitable efforts lately, such as taking a needy family grocery shopping a few weeks back.
But he also has looked frustrated on the field, and is having a lackluster year as a punt returner, after making a name for himself as perhaps the league’s most explosive weapon in 2009 and 2010. Jackson’s lack of size, and his concussion history make it hard to peg exactly where he ranks in the NFL receiving hierarchy, which is probably the main reason the contract hasn’t gotten done. As the Bears showed Monday, it is possible to shut him down -- maybe easier than shutting down bigger stronger receivers, such as Larry Fitzgerald, whom the Eagles face today.
One beneficiary from Jackson’s absence today should be Steve Smith, the wideout who dressed the past two weeks but didn’t play. Smith, recovering from microfracture knee surgery, caught 107 passes for the Giants in 2009.
Stay tuned for more.