Jackson returns, hoping to save Ryan's job

September 20, 1990|By Mark Bowden | Mark Bowden,Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA -- Tight end Keith Jackson ended a seven-week holdout with the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, dropped his demand to renegotiate his contract, accepted his fines and the loss of two games' wages, and flew back to Philadelphia to rejoin the team.

"I'm back for the team and for Coach [Buddy] Ryan," Jackson said after reporting to Veterans Stadium last night. "I heard rumors that there was some conspiracy going upstairs to get rid of Coach Ryan, and I figured, if I come in and we win, there's no way they can get rid of him . . . I was hurting myself at the same time."

Jackson said he had been working with a sprint coach and would be ready to play in Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams.

"I expect him to," Ryan said. "We'll probably activate him for the game unless something happens."

Explaining Jackson's "conspiracy" remark, Gary Wichard, Jackson's agent, said he and Jackson believe that team owner Norman Braman and team president Harry Gamble "don't care about winning" and would welcome an excuse to fire Ryan, who is in the last year of a five-year contract.

Ryan sat alongside Jackson, smiling as the player spoke, but he declined comment.

Gamble "emphatically" denied Jackson's charges yesterday.

Jackson, a two-year veteran and two-time All-Pro, failed to report to training camp this summer, complaining that his approximate earnings of $500,000 for this season would be well below what comparable NFL stars made. His demand for renegotiation was rebuffed immediately by Gamble, who maintained throughout the holdout that the team would not renegotiate.

Jackson's decision to rejoin the team amounted to a complete capitulation. The Eagles agreed to cease efforts to recover a portion of Jackson's $800,000 signing bonus and agreed to Jackson's request that he pay his approximate $50,000 in fines to his favorite charity -- Thomas Memorial Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.

Jackson also said: "I'm going to set up a whole bunch of scholarship funds all over the world."

Gamble said: "During the course of discussions this morning on the phone, there were some minor requests on the part of Wichard as far as the contract was concerned, but there was nothing done. There were no changes whatsoever."

Jackson, a first-round draft pick from the University of Oklahoma, expressed anger at Eagles management for its refusal to acknowledge that he had exceeded the expectations underlying the contract he signed as a rookie in 1988. He said the most important thing he had learned during his holdout was that "there's a big difference between the first floor and the fourth floor." (Players and coaches occupy first-floor offices at Veterans Stadium; management offices are on the fourth.)

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