DeSean Jackson is still being a good teammate, even if he wanted new ones

The Bucs receiver reported;y asked general manager Jason Licht to trade him before the Oct. 30 deadline. It didn't happen. Now he's making the best of it.
Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) talks with head coach Dirk Koetter before a game against the Eagles earlier this season in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) talks with head coach Dirk Koetter before a game against the Eagles earlier this season in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published November 7 2018
Updated November 7 2018

TAMPA — DeSean Jackson wasn't giving up any trade secrets.

Speaking to the media Wednesday for the first time since a report two weeks ago that he requested the Bucs deal him to another team, the 31-year-old receiver wouldn't deny it happened.

"Whatever them conversations were, they were between us," Jackson said when asked if he spoke to general manager Jason Licht to request a trade. "It's over and done with now, and I'm looking forward. We've got eight games left to continue to try our best to get in the playoffs and win here."

At 3-5 and having lost four of their past five games, the Bucs on Sunday host Jackson's former Washington team, which is 5-3 and leading the NFC East.

This has to be particularly galling for Jackson, who has watched the Bucs go 8-16 since joining them as a free agent before last season.

On the field, Jackson's decline has mirrored that of his team's. The Bucs opened this season with consecutive wins at New Orleans and against the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. Jackson had more than 100 yards receiving in three of their first four games with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

But since then, Jackson has averaged 50 receiving yards over the past four games.

"He's averaging 22-point-something (yards) per catch (22.4),'' coach Dirk Koetter said. "Again, guys, the object of the game is to get one more point than the other team, however you get there. The object of the game isn't to get DeSean more catches.''

Koetter is right. The object of the game is to win, and that is precisely why the Bucs did not want to suffer a trade deficit.

Jackson is one of the top playmakers on an offense that has ranked No. 1 in the NFL for most of the season.

When the Oct. 30 trade deadline approached, the Bucs were focused on getting a win over Carolina to get back to .500 and one game out of a possible wild-card spot. Licht didn't see the logic in losing the most explosive players on offense for a mid-round draft pick.

What Jackson says he's frustrated about is that the Bucs look like they're headed for another losing season.

"It's just knowing what's in this locker room, knowing the players we have all across the board, and knowing how talented it can be. It did show early on. That's the frustration," he said. "So not being able to have the results … that's been more of the frustration for me.

"It's not individual. It's more accomplishing what we all want to accomplish. It's winning football games and being in the games and not shooting ourselves in the foot and getting behind.''

When the season began, the Bucs were effusive in their praise of Jackson for being a good teammate. That wasn't always the case in 2017, when he appeared to sulk as the season unraveled. He missed the final two games with an injury.

Wednesday, Koetter was asked if Jackson was still being a good teammate.

"Yeah, very much so,'' Koetter said. "In fact, he's going to be a captain this week.''

But it's also fair to ask if being a good teammate means requesting to be sent to another team.

"I don't know that he did,'' Koetter said. "That's about the 100th time I've answered that question.

"I have no knowledge of that. I don't comment on other people's speculation.''

Of course Koetter knows whether Jackson requested a trade, but he's not about to comment on a conversation between Jackson and Licht that he was not part of.

What's more, the Bucs need Jackson to keep making plays more than ever. Lots of plays.

Whether it was the defensive adjustment by Carolina on Sunday or not, Jackson had only one target in the first half and finished with two receptions for 32 yards.

"Of course. DeSean is extremely frustrated,'' Koetter said. "Every great player I've ever been around in my life is frustrated because they want the ball every play. So what?

"Like every time we start talking about catches and touches, my question is, whose targets do you want to switch? You want Mike (Evans) less? You want O.J. (Howard) more? You want DeSean more? That's not how the game is played.''

It's unclear what game Jackson was playing if he did ask the Bucs to trade him. It's not the long game. Jackson's $10 million salary for 2019 is not guaranteed, meaning the Bucs can walk away with no salary cap ramifications.

Jackson said he enjoys playing and living in Tampa Bay.

"That's where I'm at in my career,'' he said. "I'm here. I never try to get thinking about where I've been or where I might go. I'm just doing a good job of staying here and keeping my feet underneath me where I'm at today, and this is where I'm at, here in Tampa Bay.

"I love the fans. I love my teammates, and I just want to translate that over to winning. I've won a lot in my career. I've lost some, too, and I know what it feels like to get in the playoffs and play in crucial games, and that's something Tampa has been missing. I just want to do whatever I can to get us back there.''

Jackson knows the tricks of the trade. He has no choice but to ride it out with the Bucs. He's being a good teammate. Even if he apparently wanted new ones.

"As long as we can win, we'll all be here," Jackson said.