If you're wondering where last week's media-driven back-and-forth with Donovan McNabb left DeSean Jackson, the answer last night was sitting in front of a rack of polo shirts at the Modell's in Mount Laurel, N.J., signing autographs for a steady stream of patrons -- and acting very skittish about reigniting the controversy.
Jackson, the Eagles' Pro Bowl wideout and punt returner, made it clear he didn't want to discuss anything relating to McNabb. That point was reiterated by public relations handler Bobby McRae, who took your Eagletarian aside to reinforce that Jackson was available to discuss the Eagles (presumably, at positions other than quarterback) and his upcoming football camps for kids.
Funny thing about that is, careful readers of this space will recall that we scorned the made-up Jackson-McNabb "controversy" --- in which a Sporting News reporter, wanting publicity for a Q-and-A with the emerging face of the team, highlighted Jackson saying he didn't think the Eagles would suffer from having replaced McNabb with Kevin Kolb. This insight -- shocking from a 23-year-old wideout who plays for the Eagles, not the Redskins, and is looking at spending the prime of his career catching passes from Kolb -- was then conveyed to McNabb in a way that made it seem Jackson had dissed the former franchise QB. McNabb allowed himself to get provoked into an observation about people being willing to talk behind his back when they didn't have anything to say to his face. Then Jackson had to explain that he meant no offense.
Anyhow, our point in going to Modell's was not to flog that horse again (though we wanted to be on hand if something happened along those lines, like a distraught fan in a No. 5 jersey trying to stab DJax with a Sharpie.) Our thinking was along the lines of how quickly No.10 has become the biggest star on the team, with Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook and McNabb all departing within the last 15 months.
Alas, DJax, with the McNabb hoo-ha still fresh, didn't think that was anything he ought to be talking about, either. He knows last week's activities reignited fears of incipient divahood among fans who have been on the alert for that ever since his reputation preceeded him into the 2008 draft. Two exceptional seasons as a hard worker and a leader put all that stuff on the back burner, but it will probably never completely go away.
"They think I'm the new T.O.," he said. He didn't seem to be taking it as a compliment.
Seriously, doesn't Jackson feel he is now the face of the Eagles?
"Not really," he said, while scribbling on a glossy photo.
Asked if this offseason was different from the months that followed his rookie year, Jackson said it was not.
However, as fans lined up outside the store, Modell's regional marketing manager Derrick Morgan, gazing at a rack of midnight green No. 10 jerseys, said: "he's definitely our top seller," among the current Eagles. Not on a par with Phils ace Roy Halladay, Morgan said, not in May, anyhow, but definitely the Bird to watch.
Kevin Kolb's No. 4 might skyrocket, once he is actually playing games, but right now, if Kolb walks into a sporting goods store in civilian clothing, he probably can peruse his beloved bass fishing equipment in peace. Not so, the scrawny, tattooed wideout with the oversized sunglasses. Jackson acknowledged last night that fans usually recognize him wherever he goes these days, and that he doesn't know if that's good or bad.
This was Jackson's second appearance at the Mount Laurel store in the past few months, Morgan said. Jackson said he does a few signings a month, tries to get 500 signatures in at each. Last night, he was agreeable, if not effusive. Photos were discouraged, to keep the line moving, but if Morgan got distracted and a dad or mom pulled out a camera to capture Jackson signing something for a child, Jackson just smiled and posed.
After such an exchange, Jackson mused about not wanting to be the bad guy. It seemed to be theme of the evening.
Jackson actually is doing two youth football camps, but the one this weekend at Penn Charter High is filled. Still accepting applicants is the longer June 28-July 2 camp in Moorestown, N.J., proceeds benefiting the fight against pancreatic cancer, which claimed Jackson's father, Bill, last year. More information is available at www.philly.com/DeSean Jackson, or by calling 1-877-993-5222.
From what the Denver Post had to say about Brian Westbrook's visit in Denver, it sounds like the Broncos are serious about reuniting BWest with Correll Buckhalter and Brian Dawkins.
"We had a great meeting with him," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "He's not in a hurry. He's a talented player, but certainly we wanted to do our research, so we got him in here. We had an opportunity to speak with him. He's a great person, a great football player and he's healthy now."
McDaniels added: "If we have the opportunity to add him we just think it would make our football team better."