DeSEAN JACKSON was talking about the joys of fishing Wednesday. About how much he likes fatherhood. And about turning 30 on Dec. 1.
"I've just matured. Handled my business like a professional. Learned a lot, from where I started to where I'm at now," said Jackson, whose departure from the Eagles in 2014 was tinged by a story that accused him of gang ties, and by speculation about his well-known affinity for late nights and casinos. (But in reality it seemed to have more to do with Jackson's casual attitude toward then-coach Chip Kelly's tight rules.)
DeSean Jackson Jr., born to Jackson and girlfriend Kayla Phillips last Oct. 26, is "a blessing," Jackson told a conference call Wednesday with reporters covering the Eagles. "I love my son. He's definitely matured me a lot . . . Hopefully, one day when he gets older, he'll be able to see how his dad went about business, and hopefully, he'll be able to follow in the footsteps. Maybe be better!"
On Jackson's social media these days, there are lots of baby pictures and notices of charity events, not so much of parties and jewelry.
Fishing, he said, is "just relaxing. It's kind of country out here (at the Redskins' facility in Ashburn, Va.). So it's really not too much to do, as far as going out and things of that nature. Kinda just got into it last offseason, went out a couple of times with a buddy or two of mine. It's kind of competitive, too - something about the fish, they don't always bite.
"You just go out there on the water and just really relax and enjoy life. When you're on the field, in this business, you're working so hard. To be able to get out into nature and just feel the breeze, look at the water, sunset drop, all that stuff just kind of caught my eye."
There was a time when the sun's rise would catch Jackson's eye, and tell him it was time to leave the club and go home, or maybe to practice. But suddenly, there are only three Redskins who have played in the NFL longer than Jackson, whose electric NFL debut with the Eagles could not possibly have been nine seasons ago, but somehow was. He is no longer an indefatigable kid. Jackson doesn't return punts anymore - none so far this season, three since he left Philly.
He talked about Philadelphia, too, of course. Hard to avoid that, given that the reason for the conference call was Sunday's Eagles-Redskins game at FedEx Field.
Jackson, who not-so-coincidentally can be a free agent next spring, made it clear that any hard feelings he might harbor over his 2014 departure are for Kelly, "not for the city or the organization."
(Later, in the Eagles' locker room, a former teammate said: "He definitely wants to come back. He loved it here.")
Jackson even tossed a little gasoline on the glowing embers of nostalgia, when asked if he stays in touch with LeSean McCoy, in Buffalo, and if they talk about what might have been. McCoy was banished a year after Jackson. The Eagles don't have any weapons of their stature now.
"Every day," Jackson said, before the questioner had even completed his sentence. "He sent me a message this morning that said, 'Man, we was awesome together.' I'm like, 'Yeah, man, I miss playing with you, but you know, gotta live on, move on.'
"But we definitely do. He actually sent me a picture this morning, when he scored a touchdown (as an Eagle) . . . it's like, 'Man, we miss them days' . . . It's unfortunate things broke up the way they did, but I think everybody's still happy, doing what they need to do."
What the Redskins need to do, Jackson and coach Jay Gruden agree, is get Jackson the ball more. He is their fourth-leading receiver, with 18 catches for 278 yards and one touchdown, in five games. The last two games, both Washington victories, Jackson has a total of four catches for 40 yards.
"It's going how it's going right now," Jackson said, after a questioner said it appeared quarterback Kirk Cousins was overthrowing him a lot, and then wondered if they were working on their chemistry. "I guess what you're seeing on film is what you're seeing. We're working, we're trying to do everything we can to stay patient and hopefully connect on some of them.
"But as a wide receiver, and a guy that's known for doing some great things down the field, big plays and all that stuff, we need a little more of that added to our play right now, because that's kind of what we're missing on . . . We're trying to figure it out."
In a separate conference call, Gruden noted that in his team's victory over the Browns two weeks back, Jackson had just one catch for 5 yards, "but he (caused) two pass interferences that were 80 yards of offense."
"We've missed a couple of big, big big-time opportunities to get him the ball down the field, and his numbers aren't where he would like them to be or we would like them to be, but he still has that top-end speed that should scare defenses . . . We're going to try to get him more and more involved . . . He's been a pleasure to coach and he still has the speed that scares people," Gruden said.
Earlier Wednesday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson was asked about his young wide receivers and a lack of those down-the-field plays.
"We've missed a couple of opportunities down the field . . . But at the same time, I think they're working extremely hard. We're picking our spots," Pederson said.
Someone like Jackson would provide an element that is missing, though the current front office wants to build a young nucleus around Carson Wentz, and seems reluctant to patch with veterans. Jackson's last contract was for three years and $24 million; the Eagles wouldn't be interested at that level, but given that his totals have gone down each year since he left the Birds, it's unlikely anyone will be interested at that level. With Kelly gone, a reunion here becomes possible, just barely.
"You never know how things will turn out," Jackson said. "Whatever God's calling is, I definitely think I'll be blessed to be wherever it is. Hopefully I'll still be here in Washington, and not have to really worry about that . . . I think I'm still playing at a high level, I'm still running by guys . . . I still see myself playing another five, seven years in this game."