TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson turned some heads when he took the field for the first practice of OTAs wearing a No. 1 jersey. He'll be wearing No. 11 for the Bucs this fall, but he'll continue wearing No. 1 in practice throughout the season, something he did at Washington, too.
That's the number he wore as a budding star in Pop Warner, in high school and when he caught 162 passes in three seasons at Cal. And he believes it gives him a psychological edge.
"It kind of keeps my youth," Jackson said. "[It] kind of keeps me thinking something about when I was younger and I was able to rock that [No.] 1 and just really keep the memories and hopefully continue to still play like I’m young.”
He's 30 now. For a player who has a reputation as being one of the fastest receivers in the league and used to taking the top off of defenses, that can be a terrifying reality. Speed is usually the first thing to go with age. And at 30, especially at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, the injuries can start to pile up.
Jackson isn't concerning himself with that, nor has he altered the way he's training this offseason. In fact, he's returned to a training style similar to the one he adopted as a rookie. He works with track coach Gary Cablayan, who specializes in speed and recently coached two 2016 Olympic hurdlers -- Toyin Augustus of Nigeria and Kenneth Medwood of Belize. Cabalyan also helped Cincinnati Bengals rookie John Ross shatter Chris Johnson's NFL combine record in the 40-yard dash this year.
"I’ve been working with him since I was probably about seven years old and it’s just everything, really," Jackson said. "It’s weightlifting, speed, quickness. It’s really like I’m not playing football. It’s really just straight track work. Like me, I’m a guy that’s very fast, but I’m able to transition that on the football field. Usually, track guys can’t really come in and out of breaks, they can’t run routes, so I’ve been fortunate enough to kind of have the best of both worlds.
"I kind of went back to my first basics, working back with my track coach and really training like I was a rookie again," Jackson said. "Usually I take a lot longer break once the season is over, but in this position and I was going to be a free agent and I felt that it was important to get out there training and let people know that even though I am about to be 30, but I’m still at the position where I feel like I’m still young. I’m rejuvenated and I’m ready to play this game at a high level."
That's not to say that he won't pull back if needed. He's at the point in his career where he could take a rest day, something veterans such as Vincent Jackson would do periodically as a means of being proactive about their health.
"I still feel like I know what it takes to get done," Jackson said. "If that’s putting in the work and maybe pulling back a little bit when I need to before training camp starts, to be able to come in ready to go for the long haul, I’ll be fine with that.”
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is happy to add the speedy receiver to his offense.
"I can assure you that he has a gear that we haven’t had on this team in the three years I’ve been here," Koetter said. "This guy can really, really run."