DeSean Jackson returns 'home' to Philadelphia a wiser 'cheetah'

The Philadelphia Eagles traded for DeSean Jackson, 32, on Monday, sending Tampa Bay a sixth-round draft pick while getting a seventh-round pick back in 2020. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

PHILADELPHIA -- DeSean Jackson used to have a saying earlier in his football career: "Cheetahs don't stretch."

With endless energy and ability streaming through his slight 5-foot-10 frame, he could jump out of bed and be great, regardless of what he might have gotten into the night before.

"At a young age, you don't have to look at how I'm taking care of my body or how I'm resting, how much am I partying, how much am I doing all the wrong things. I think as you get older, you mature and you say, 'My body is hurting a little more. Maybe I gotta go sit in the hot tub a little longer. Maybe I need to get to work earlier, get on the field and go stretch out.' Just little things like that as a young kid when I was 24 I didn't have to do," he said.

"But now I'm a little older, and these joints, they hurt a little more, so I have to get out there a little earlier and take care of my body a little bit more."

That was representative of the tone Jackson struck during his (re)introductory news conference Thursday, a day after his trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to the Philadelphia Eagles became official, painting the picture of a player who is tending more carefully to his craft and has become more thoughtful in his decision-making since the last time he walked these halls in 2013. He was clearly "stoked" to be back "home," as he called Philly and the Eagles organization -- the same one that drafted him in the second round in 2008 -- on multiple occasions. He sported a brand new silky green shirt for the occasion, accessorized with a diamond-studded watch and a pair of iced necklaces that reflected back into the crowd the success he's had during his 11-year NFL career.

He reminisced some about his first stint in Philly (2008-13) and assured everyone he had secured No. 10 back from Mack Hollins, offering thanks to his fellow receiver while saying, "That number, man, I don't know how much I've got to argue about that. I definitely did some good things in that number, so it's definitely good to have that number back."

Still, Jackson seemed to understand that this wasn't the start of some trip back in time. There are familiar faces in the building, for sure, from coach Doug Pederson to executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman to teammates such as Jason Peters, Brandon Graham and Zach Ertz. But the roster has also turned over significantly since he was last here. New alphas have emerged, and the franchise has won a Super Bowl. Jackson spoke of having to earn respect by "showing the work."

And Jackson has changed as well, he says. He was 27 when former coach Chip Kelly unceremoniously cut him following a career season in 2013. He's now 32 with a young family, and apparently has an altered perspective from his earlier days when he was tearing up the league and through life, leaving rocking boats in his wake.

"When I was younger I had the world in my hands, coming into the NFL as a rookie and starting. Having all that success early in my career, it was kind of hard to get a hold of that at a young age," he said. "But you have to go through things in life in order to mature. And I just feel like now, I have a family, I have kids, I do everything for them, and I just think about, 'What's the legacy I want to leave when I'm gone? What do I want people to say about me?' And the biggest thing I can say is I put it all on the line for my teammates, for my family and for my coaches."

Jackson spoke excitedly about teaming up with quarterback Carson Wentz, whom he described as possessing "an arm out of this world" and a mountain of potential. He said he wanted to set an example for younger players so they could have long, successful careers, just as guys like Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook did for him.

Keep in mind, this was Jackson on one of his best days. There are peaks and valleys with him, and that seemed to hold true during his days away in Washington and Tampa.

But there was a sense that his experiences out in the world did make the cheetah a bit wiser.

"If you ask anyone in this building, what's the point of bringing a guy like me back? And that's to help this team win. We're not in it for any other reasons," he said. "Accolades and all that stuff ... is great, but at the end of the day, we want to win. I want to be able to put some jewelry on my finger."