GOSH, HE sure didn't look like a gang member, with the vest and the tie and the glasses and all . . .
ESPN presented an interview yesterday evening, in which a professorially attired DeSean Jackson spoke with Stephen A. Smith. Eventually, it was more like DeSean Jackson trying to get a word in edgewise with Stephen A. Smith.
Even for fans angry about Jackson's release by the Eagles and subsequent signing by the Redskins, Smith's extraordinarily pro-Jackson approach probably seemed over the top. He devoted several minutes to a flamboyant oration aimed at getting Jackson to say the Eagles planted the NJ.com story that alleged Jackson had "gang ties."
Jackson, who was not asked to comment on the NFLPA's statement yesterday that it would investigate whether the Eagles attempted to smear him, did not take the bait. "I hope not," Jackson eventually said, when asked to answer "yes" or "no."
Smith asked whether that was a "no." Jackson said it was.
The one thing we hadn't gotten, amid the oceans of information and analysis since the Eagles cut Jackson loose a week ago yesterday, was a clear picture of who called Jackson and what they told him, along with any sense of why Jackson thought the Birds ditched him at age 27, coming off the best receiving year of his career.
"The conversation I had with Chip Kelly was a deep, personal conversation," Jackson said. "It was basically like, 'We're moving forward. I think it's best for the team, I think it's best for yourself.' I was sittin' there waiting for the reason why, but that's basically all I can [recall] from the conversation, was 'We're moving forward. I think it's best for us and I think it's best for you . . . we're going to go let you negotiate with 31 other teams.' "
Jackson said Kelly "came back with the same reason" as he awaited further explanation.
"That's kind of where we left it. I got off the phone - I was like, 'Are you sure? That's it?' We hung up. That was it."
Jackson called the NJ.com story "disrespectful," and added "I don't think it was right" to bring up incidents from several years ago and portray them as part of a growing problem.
Jackson said he grew up with gang members, but is not one.
"Do I know friends who were out there, involved? Yes," he said.
When Smith tried to get Jackson to say he doesn't hang out with gang members, Jackson said: "Not if they're doing negative things," which is probably not as strong a disclaimer as Smith had in mind.
Jackson said he grew up with Theron Shakir, the alleged Crips gang member who was tried for and acquitted of a 2010 slaying, and who raps for Jackson's label, Jaccpot Records. The NJ.com story referenced a photo of Jackson with Shakir, celebrating his release from prison.
There was much discussion of photographs of Jackson flashing what seems to be the Crips' "C" sign. Jackson's explanation seemed to be that he and his friends from LA use that sign, among themselves, with no gang connotation.
Jackson said that he thought he had a good relationship with Kelly, but that Andy Reid, who led the Eagles when Jackson was drafted in 2008 and when his father, Bill, passed away a year later, was "a father figure in my life."
"I'm not going to badmouth [Kelly] or put dirt on his name," Jackson said. He said Reid was "a shoulder I leaned on through this," though Reid's Kansas City Chiefs did not attempt to sign Jackson when the Eagles released him.
The closest thing to critical questioning came when Smith quoted from a CBS3.com story, in which anonymous current and former Eagles said Jackson was selfish and insubordinate.
"I never have, not once, not been a team guy," Jackson said. "Everything I do on the field is for my team . . . I don't think [that portrait] is real, I don't think it's right.
"Have I always been perfect, have I always done things the right way? No. Have I learned, and found out a better way of doing things? Yes . . . Me coming in the NFL 20 years old, very young, not really knowing the right and wrong thing to do, I had to learn. I'm not perfect. No one is. But at the end of the day, I'm going to learn how to do it the right way, and I'm going to do it the right way."
Jackson said he has matured greatly over the past 2 or 3 years.
Jackson, suspended for a game in 2011 by Reid for missing a special-teams meeting, said he has "missed one meeting probably out of my whole career."
Earlier yesterday, in a Fox Sports interview, running back LeSean McCoy said: "To lose a guy like that is definitely tough. He'll definitely be missed. Obviously, every move is made for a reason. The guy upstairs [Kelly] made the decision for a reason."