After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
Published July 27, 2017

TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in North Tampa.

DeSean Jr., his 21-month-old son, bobbed around in his Ninja Turtle Floaties, unable to field the Nerf football pass from his famous father. Jackson Sr. smiled and carefully walked around the edges of the pool but never went more than ankle-deep in the water.

Boxes sat unopened in the living room. Jackson still has a lot to unpack with his third team and new home. But before long, he knows he has to make a big splash on offense for the Bucs and speed-starved quarterback Jameis Winston.

"We're not the favorites, but sometimes people can make more out of all the attention you're getting," Jackson said of the Bucs, nodding to the boom microphones and cameras pointed at him by HBO's Hard Knocks crew.

"I think (coach) Dirk (Koetter) has done has done a good job of letting everybody know we still haven't done anything. We've got the cameras on us and all that stuff, but we haven't won anything yet."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Bucs pursue and catch their target, free agent DeSean Jackson.

• • •

That's why the Bucs made acquiring Jackson — an unrestricted free agent who averaged 17.7 yards every time he has touched the ball in his previous nine seasons with the Eagles and Redskins — the No. 1 priority in the offseason.

Not only will he be the perfect complement to Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans, but entering his 10th NFL season, he brings experience and competitiveness the Bucs hope will push their franchise over the top.

On the eve of reporting to training camp, Jackson and his girlfriend, Kayla Phillips, 26, relaxed by the pool with DeSean Jr., their son, and stepson Tru Newkirk, 7.

Jackson, 30 — with three Pro Bowls, 9,000 career receiving yards and 50 touchdowns on his resume — shows no signs of slowing, on or off the field.

Last season he was the second-fastest player clocked in the league during a touchdown reception. This summer he also has been a human blur. He squeezed in workouts and a minicamp with the Bucs around the premiere of the movie All Eyez on Me, a biography of rapper Tupac Shakur, which Jackson co-produced and in which he is financially invested. The movie, with a budget of $40 million, has earned $45 million at the box office. He also attended the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles and vacationed for more than a week in the Bahamas.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Bucs' DeSean Jackson is producer of new Tupac Shakur movie 'All Eyez on Me.'

"In the offseason, for a guy like me, I'm going into my 10th season, so it's not like how it was when I was in my second or third year in the league, where I just felt I had to work so hard and it was grind, grind, grind," said Jackson, a second-round pick out of Cal in 2008. "I still work hard, but at this point, I know what to do. I know what it takes. I know what I need to do to have my body ready. It gives me a lot more time outside of football in the offseason to do some of the things off the field that I'm interested in."

Jackson says he's in his best shape in years. The heat and humidity in Tampa Bay have had something to do with it. But he also went back to work in California with Gary Cablayan, a track coach Jackson has trained with since he was 7.

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"I'm training like I'm getting ready for the 100-meter race in the Olympics, but that's what I need to do," Jackson said. "One thing people have to understand is that track workouts are very hard. You have to run 300 (meters), 350s, 150s. People think you go and play football and it's just sprinting up and down the field. It's nothing like that. That gets my endurance up, allows me to play throughout the whole season."

Jackson is excited to play with Winston, whom he had met only as a competitor before coming to the Bucs. He said that because the Redskins, his team last season, and Bucs were locked in a tight race for the final NFC wild-card spot (it eventually went to the Lions), he made it a point to check out Winston's highlights each Sunday and was impressed.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Bucs putting pressure on WR DeSean Jackson to live up to contract.

"He's a great young quarterback with a big arm," Jackson said. "And he's the leader. That's what you want your quarterback to be.

"Once I knew (the Bucs) were really going to be interested in me, it really sparked me, and I was like, 'Okay, they've got Jameis, they've got Mike (Evans). They got that defense. … It would be cool to play with them.' "

• • •

Jackson ducked behind a curtained cabana on the lanai of his pool deck and caught a glimpse of the NFL Network, which was talking about the Bucs being contenders for a playoff spot in the NFC South. On a flat-screen TV flashed a practice highlight of Jackson smoking a defensive back and hauling in a deep pass from Winston.

"Honestly, it's a blessing," Jackson said. "Year in and year out, I see all these young guys coming into the league. Freaks of nature. Big guys. Little fast guys. I'm in my 10th year and in Tampa Bay. I could never have predicted that. I continue to work hard. It's a new journey here, so I'm excited about it."