Today, DeSean Jackson was quoted admitting that he didn’t try as hard as he could have last year, but rather was conscious of not getting hurt before he received a new contract. Here’s the quote from Jackson on his effort being questioned:
I let it get to me, even though I tried not to let it. I was trying to protect myself from getting hurt — now I’m just giving it all.
That Jackson would be willing to admit to not trying his hardest is hardly surprising. This is a player whose premature celebrations have cost him a touchdown not once, but twice. He’s also a player who, a season ago, was called for a 50-yard taunting penalty. Obviously, it’s easy to hate Jackson as a Giants fan, but I have to believe that even Eagles’ supporters have a tough time rooting for a guy with Jackson’s attitude and track record, despite his obvious talent.
Later on in the interview, Jackson went on to say that he felt “happy to finally get that contract. I felt with what I had done for the team, I deserved it.”
Contrast that with the following:
“Whenever the contract comes, it comes. I’m not going to be sitting back, waiting for it, thinking about it, because then I won’t be focused on football. When that time comes, we’ll cross that bridge.”
That quote came from Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Last year, Cruz set the Giants’ franchise record with 1,536 receiving yards while making $405,000. This year, he’s slated to make just slightly more than that. For comparison’s sake, Jackson had a career-low 961 receiving yards while being paid $555,000 in 2011.
Prima dona wide receivers are nothing new to the NFL, and particularly not to the NFC East. But it’s hard to argue that one of the things that makes the Giants so successful is the lack of egos among their star players. Eli Manning and Justin Tuck set the tone for the team on offense and defense, respectively, and one could hardly imagine a better mentor than either. The one muddy contract situation the Giants have had over the past few years was that of Osi Umenyiora, but even in his least happy year he racked up 9 sacks in 9 games last season, and added 3 1/2 more in the Giants run to the Super Bowl.
I don’t want to overstate the gulf between the Giants and their NFC East rivals. Clearly, not everyone on the roster is going to be happy at all times, and winning keeps a lot of those situations from becoming magnified. But still, it’s hard not to consider the extent to which that winning is due to having a team of stable leaders like Tuck and Cruz versus headaches like Jackson and Dez Bryant. Whatever personal issues the Giants players have with each other or with management, they never seem to affect the team between the lines. In this division and in this city, that’s rare.