HENDERSON, Nev. — It was a decidedly kinder, gentler DeSean Jackson who showed up at the Las Vegas Raiders’ podium Wednesday afternoon, after his first official practice with the newest team in an oft-star-crossed 14-year career.
Diva? Don’t even. Not on this day.
“It’s really not about myself at this point,” said Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowler who will turn 35 on Dec. 1.
“I’m not asking to get the ball 100 times. I’m not asking to play 100%,” he said. “Whatever that role is that fits, just let me play it to the best of my ability.”
Jackson, a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 out of Cal who has also played in the NFL for Washington and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, asked for and received his release from the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 2 after seven games.
After clearing waivers, he chose the team he first saw live as a kid, in 1995 at the Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ opponents’ that day? The Kansas City Chiefs — the Raiders’ opponents Sunday, when Jackson will make his Raiders debut? The Chiefs.
“He’s very fast,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said of Jackson. “He can still run. That definitely showed up today. … Everyone’s watching. I want to watch him run. I want to watch him catch the ball. Even in pat-and-go [drills], I’m just excited to throw him the ball. Watching him work today gives you a lot of confidence as a quarterback.
“When you can add a talent like that, I think we’re in the business of adding good football players. I’ve always loved him … just being around him today on the practice field, actually working, it’s going to be hard not to get along with that guy. Especially, again, the way that guy can run, it was nice to see that No. 1 jersey flying down the field.”
Jackson was signed to help fill the Raiders’ deep-threat role with last week’s release of Henry Ruggs III in the wake of his arrest and facing felony and misdemeanor charges after a car crash that claimed the life of 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her dog.
Still, Jackson said he was not trying to replace Ruggs, the Raiders’ top draft pick in 2020.
“But being that spark, what I’ve been able to do my whole career — deep threat, vertical threat — and having the defense having to account for that,” Jackson said. “So, if it’s being a decoy, opening it up for other guys like [tight end Darren] Waller, [receiver] Hunter [Renfrow], whatever it is I need to do to be a spark, that’s what I’m here for.”
At 5-3, the Raiders are still in the thick of the AFC West race, and Jackson noted Las Vegas’ playoff potential as a reason for his choosing to come to the desert.
“Being an LA guy, being close to home, the weather, all that good stuff, I didn’t want to go nowhere cold,” he said. “I just felt like the Raiders fit, matched perfect.”
The Raiders expect Jackson to be a quick enough learner this week to make an impact in “certain packages” Sunday night. Plus, the Raiders’ offense is similar to what the Rams run, in terms of verbiage and concepts.
Jackson has led the NFL in yards per catch average four times — in 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018 — and was averaging 27.6 yards per catch, on 8 receptions, for the Rams. He has 620 catches for 10,877 yards and 57 TDs in 167 career games.
“I know it’s a lot of adversity going on with the organization, but sometimes that’s what builds character,” he said. “Right now is the best time for everybody to gel together and come together. Best thing about life is you can always better yourself and move forward.”
Jackson was asked how different he is mentally as a player now than before.
“Back then I used to make crazy decisions, I wasn’t as smart … as I am now,” he said. “I lived a lot. I have two kids, that’s obviously made me grow up a lot and really, just really knowing the rights from the wrongs. Every time you get the opportunity to go out there and play this game, it’s a privilege. I think when you’re young, you take it for granted. You really don’t know that it can be a snap of a finger and it can be done.
“Now, where I’m at, just knowing some of them dumb decisions I made when I was younger, you can’t really do that.”