(ABC)–DeSean Jackson sensed that perhaps not all of his Washington Redskins teammates were supportive of Robert Griffin III.
Jackson also felt that the team could use some more vocal leaders.
So last week, before the team broke for the bye, the talented but usually quiet veteran receiver raised some eyebrows when he stood up at the end of a full team meeting in the Redskins Park auditorium. Jackson made a quick speech stressing that everyone needs to unite behind the coaches’ decision and support the quarterback.
“It was very surprising,” tight end Niles Paul said, “because he’s one of those I-lead-by-example type of guys, doesn’t really speak up that much. So to see him get up there and kind of address the situation and kind of end the situation, it was very impactful on this team.”
Jackson and his teammates talked about the moment as they returned Monday from their five-day bye break. Jackson spoke of how hard it can be to win if “everybody’s not on one page” and why he felt the need to step out of character.
“Never really been a vocal guy to yell at another player or get on another player, that just wasn’t me,” Jackson said. “Now I’m in my seventh year in the NFL, so I’ve been through a lot and I understand how things can be portrayed and … RG3 being a quarterback and what he’s been through in his career. So far as far as myself, I just wanted to stand up and let him know that I’m supporting him, and hopefully everybody else can support the situation as well.”
Jackson brought to a head two distinct but interwoven issues as the Redskins (3-6) try to salvage their season: the decision to restore Griffin as the starting QB, and the debate over whether there is a leadership void in the locker room.
Griffin, healthy after missing six games with a dislocated ankle, got the call for the pre-bye Minnesota Vikings game over Colt McCoy, who had led back-to-back victories. Griffin played OK, but had two bad throws at crucial times and took too many sacks in the 29-26 loss.
Players said Monday that the team has always had Griffin’s back. Yet Jackson obviously felt there was a fire that needed to be put out – and that no one else was going to do it.
“I think it’s a good situation for us, for a guy like that who’s established to step up. … We need guys to speak up,” fullback Darrel Young said. “No one’s really spoken up. Everyone’s just kind of said it here and there.”
Although he’s in his first season in Washington, Jackson has quickly earned respect by producing on the field. He has 781 yards receiving through nine games in which the Redskins have shuffled through three quarterbacks.
In past years, his speech might have been delivered by longtime captain London Fletcher, who retired at the end of last season. There are no Fletcher-types on the current roster who have been both healthy and productive throughout the season.
“DeSean doesn’t say a whole lot. He usually sits there with his hood on,” coach Jay Gruden said. “But it’s good. He’s starting to open up a little bit. People have a lot of respect for him as a football player, obviously, 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.”
Asked if there was enough leadership on the team, Jackson said: “I wish I could say there was a lot more. I wouldn’t say (it’s) lax. But, you know, to be a leader in the NFL, that comes with a lot. You just can’t wake up one morning and just expect to be a leader.”
Jackson also said he had a message specifically for Griffin.
“It’s understandable for him sometimes to have a lot on himself to try to go out there and do little more than what he’s asked to do, but in reality we just need him to be himself,” Jackson said. “You can’t have the world on your shoulders.”