WR DeSean Jackson addresses team

ByJohn Keim ESPN logo
Monday, November 10, 2014

ASHBURN, Va. -- TheRedskins'DeSean Jackson had not felt the need to say much in the past. He preferred to let his production speak volumes rather than his words. But it only took a half season in Washington, and rumors about quarterback Robert Griffin III, for the wide receiver to be more vocal.

Jackson, addressing drama surrounding Griffin and whether teammates support him, stood up in a team meeting last week to offer his support -- and wisdom gained through his seven years in the NFL.

Jackson, reiterating what he told Fox Sports on its pregame show Sunday, said he wanted to make sure players remained united. Jackson said that with reports circulating that Griffin had alienated players and that they were divided in whom they wanted at quarterback, it was important to deliver a message.

"I just felt it was needed. Silence is sometimes a good thing, but if you have an opinion on a topic or a certain situation, then it needs to be spoken, and that's what I felt," Jackson said. "You have to understand the importance of supporting one another. We're in this locker room together. We work so hard. We compete and do all them great things. But if everyone's not on one page, it's hard to get the benefit of the doubt."

Teammates and Jackson all said that his comments didn't stem from what he was hearing in the locker room. But after multiple reports suggesting teammates weren't united behind Griffin circulated a few days earlier, Jackson was concerned that controversy could bubble up.

The fact that Jackson spoke up made an impact.

"He's a soft-spoken dude, doesn't say too much," Redskins tight end Niles Paul said. "He addressed the situation with reports coming out that Robert had lost the locker room, which wasn't true at all. He addressed it and spoke his piece on it, and it meant that much more from him."

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Jackson usually just "sits there with his hoodie on."

"He's starting to open up a little bit," Gruden said. "People have a lot of respect for him as a player for what he does when the lights are on. But, now that he's starting to be a little more vocal behind the scenes, it's good to see."

Jackson admitted he didn't say a whole lot in similar situations during his six seasons in Philadelphia. All he wanted to do was lead by example, and for him, that meant making plays. He's never been shy about jawing with opponents, but speaking up in meetings wasn't his forte.

"I've never been a vocal guy to yell at a player or get on another player," Jackson said. "That just wasn't me. Now I'm in my seventh year, I've been through a lot and I understand how things can be portrayed. That's the wrong impression you want to give when you have a young guy like RG III being the quarterback and what he's been through in his career so far. I wanted to stand up and let him know I'm supporting him, and hopefully everyone else can support the situation, too."

Jackson spoke to Griffin before and after the team meeting. He wanted the third-year quarterback to understand another message.

"Don't feel you have to put everything on your shoulders," Jackson said. "Just make it easier for yourself. He doesn't have to prove anything. He's already a first-round draft pick. He just has to continue to go out there and play at a high level."

The Redskins also have been criticized for a lack of strong leadership. They lost veteran leader London Fletcher to retirement after last season and corner DeAngelo Hall, who had grown into that role, to an early-season injury. So Jackson felt someone needed to step into the void for this situation.

Gruden said players were frustrated by comments that they lack leaders. Jackson said there's no leadership issue -- but with a caveat.

"I wish I could say it was a lot more," Jackson said of the leadership. "I wouldn't say it lacks [leaders]. To be a leader, that comes with a lot. You just can't wake up one morning and expect to be a leader. It's hard. But the more successful and more things you've done in this league, that's how you get your stripes. That's how you get people like the younger guys listening to you and looking up to you. Not only that, you have to go out there every day and prove it and show them what it is to be a professional. We lost one leader early in the season in DeAngelo Hall. I just tried to step up and be the best I can and be that vocal leader."

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