Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Sports

Bucs’ DeSean Jackson’s status unclear for Eagles game

DeSean Jackson sat at his locker with what looked to be a 10-pound bag of ice taped to his right shoulder. His head ached from a concussion, so there would be no interviews during the cobweb cleaning.

He had just played his best game with the Bucs on Sunday: five targets, five catches for 146 yards, including touchdowns of 58 and 36 yards. He averaged just over 29 yards a reception.

Jackson's former team, the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, will be at Raymond James Stadium in five days.

But Jackson faces a week of MRIs and independent neurologists evaluating him under concussion protocol.

Wouldn't you know it? Finally, Jackson's role in the Bucs offense needs no doctoring, but he does.

"We'll have an injury report on Wednesday,'' coach Dirk Koetter said.

The shock and some awe from the Bucs' 48-40 win at New Orleans could still be felt at the team's workout facility Monday. The offense came alive behind quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns while running for another score.

Just as impressive was his ability to deliver the football to Jackson, who kept being chased through the end zone by the Saints defense.

"You got to take your shots,'' Koetter said. "I mean, you're trying to throw deep because especially you have guys who can win deep.''

It was the kind of performance that general manager Jason Licht dreamed about when he signed Jackson to a three-year, $33.5 million contract last year. Instead, he never got any bang from his new Buc.

Jackson finished 2017 with 50 catches and only three touchdowns.

Koetter said Monday that Jackson had trouble fitting in with his new team and the Bucs didn't do a good job of finding him a home in their passing attack.

"I think there's definitely something to that in DeSean's case,'' Koetter said. "Every situation is different. In DeSean's case, we didn't do a good enough job of giving DeSean chances to show what he could do last year. We didn't put the ball where he could make plays. We did a lot better of that (Sunday) night.''

Jackson had three catches of 35 yards or more against the Saints. But he paid a hefty price for them.

On the first touchdown, Jackson fell hard on his right shoulder in the end zone. Trainers immediately began working in Jackson and took him to the blue medical tent. He didn't know he would camp out there.

Jackson's day ended with 7:22 left in the game after he torched the defense for another 35-yard reception. Only this time cornerback Ken Crawley tackled him hard, with Jackson slamming the artificial turf at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome facemask first.

Jackson remained nearly motionless on the field for what seemed like a couple minutes, but he eventually walked to the sideline.

He's not the only player who is trying to recover from an injury. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a leg injury on a running play in the first quarter and was limited the rest of the game Sunday. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves injured his shoulder. There's bound to be more.

It's a shame, really.

Jackson always looks forward to playing the Eagles, a franchise that released him in 2014. It ended poorly there, with stories about how the team believed he was too closely associated with gang members.

In two weeks, he wants to be on the national stage against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.

The Bucs are hoping Jackson's shoulder is sound. They've got to be praying that he remembers the name of his first pet, his place of birth, his address or whatever questions the concussion doctor may ask.

They still have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries and tight ends O.I. Howard and Cameron Brate. But as Fitzpatrick says of Jackson, "He's special.''

Philly special? We have to wait and see.

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