DeSean Jackson volunteered to return the punt on play that injured him

Dave Zangaro
·4 min read

A detail that makes DeSean Jackson’s new injury more of a gut punch originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

You already felt bad enough for DeSean Jackson.

After fighting his way back from a hamstring injury to play on Thursday night, Jackson was hurt again on a cheap shot that might have ended his season and his career with the Eagles.

And on Tuesday, we learned something that made it even more of a gut punch.

During the Giants’ penultimate fourth-quarter drive, Jackson found Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp on the sideline and volunteered to return that punt with just over 2 minutes remaining.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for DeSean,” Fipp said on Tuesday. “During that last drive, he had come up to me and said, ‘Hey, man, if they’re punting this ball backed up or if they’re punting this ball, put me back there. I want to go back there and make a play.’

“Just a really unselfish football player trying to do anything he could to help the organization help win a football game. He knew it was a spot where the team needed him. He wanted a chance to step up and make a play for the team. So obviously he jumped back in there to take that kick.”

Even dating back to the summer, the Eagles talked about using Jackson as a punt returner in big spots. While Greg Ward is a sure-handed returner, the Eagles felt like they needed a spark in that situation. And they were happy to grant Jackson’s request.

There was just 2:09 left on the clock and the Eagles were down five points after their defense forced a punt. So Jackson trotted back to the 10-yard line for his first punt return of the season. As you might remember, Jackson has had some success in the past as a returner against the Giants.

But on this return, Jackson was hit in the head by Corey Ballentine. And after he was already on the ground, Jackson was picked up and slammed back to the field by Madre Harper. Ballentine was flagged and Harper wasn’t, although it was the Harper hit that forced the injury when Jackson’s right leg got caught under himself.

It was a dirty play.

“Well, listen, it's not my place publicly to comment on that,” Doug Pederson said on Friday. “It's a play we'll turn into the league. Obviously, they flagged it, the officials got it right in the game. It's unfortunate because of the injury. That's something that's in the league's hands. If there's any ramifications, it will come down from them. Not my place to comment on that.”

Fipp also declined to comment on the actual hit but said he was obviously disappointed to see it happen.

Jackson this week was placed on Injured Reserve. He’s expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain and a fracture. But there’s a good chance his season is over too.

This was just Jackson’s ninth punt return since the 2013 season. He was once a primary punt returner for the Eagles during his first stint but as he’s aged during his career, Jackson has been returning less and less. During training camp, Jackson was back there every day and he still looked as smooth as ever fielding those kicks.

I guess you could fault the Eagles for putting Jackson in that position and exposing him to this injury, but I can’t blame them. The Eagles were in desperate need of a big play and were short on time. Ward has been solid but hasn’t been a threat to break one. Without Jalen Reagor, the Eagles don’t have many explosive options at punt returner.

Sure, it’s added risk, but the Eagles never expected a cheap shot injury.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate what happened,” Fipp said. “We all know that injuries are a part of the game but you never like seeing them, not to any player, but certainly not to great players like him. And especially a guy who’s worked so hard to get back into the thing. Obviously, that’s tough to watch or see.”

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