JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been a varied response to Justin Blackmon's suspension to say the least. Fans are outraged that he could be so selfish and violate the NFL's substance abuse policy for a third time. The Jaguars brass is exasperated but says they'll help him and not "cut him loose" according the GM Dave Caldwell. And many of Blackmon's teammates are defiantly supportive, saying Blackmon's actions don't represent who he actually is.
One thing's for sure: the Jaguars have had an odd run in their history when it comes to wide receivers and substance abuse. Jimmy Smith, RJ Soward, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and now Blackmon form a straight line from nearly the beginning of the franchise to the present with problems off the field at WR. I don't know if it's the position or a strange run of bad luck but it's certainly odd that most of the substance abuse problems in Jaguars history have come at that position.
Clearly Blackmon has a problem. The one blemish on his record while he was at Oklahoma State was the only black mark during his tenure there and after extensive research, the Jaguars overlooked that and picked him in the first round. They were rewarded almost immediately with another drinking and driving charge followed by an apology by Blackmon and a spot in the league's substance abuse program.
One thing about each of Blackmon's arrests/violations/suspensions, he consistently apologizes and says it doesn't represent who he is but he never acknowledges that he has a problem and needs to address it. Too may young players seem to think that a quick "I'm sorry" absolves them of any wrongdoing and allows them back to their regular life.
In the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union, players are given multiple chances to receive professional help overcoming any substance abuse problems they might have. In order to get reinstated by the league, a player has to complete a variety of steps in the program to the league's satisfaction.
Blackmon has done that twice, both times apologizing to his team, the coaches, ownership and the fans. Both times he was sullen and withdrawn when talking to the media when he came back to the team but was very productive on the field and popular among his teammates. Of course he was. He was making them better. And as he became more and more productive, they became closer and closer as a team and better as an offensive unit. So it's no surprise that his teammates vehemently supported him with each transgression, including this one. Being there to help when he needs it is one thing. Enabling his destructive behavior to continue is wrong and misguided.
His teammates need to get out of the way and let him get his life fixed. Fans have every right to scream and yell about how spoiled and selfish Blackmon is as a professional athlete. And the Jaguars coaching staff is doing the right thing, hoping he'll get his life together and help them move the franchise forward.
It's up to Blackmon though. He's the one who can ask for help and get it or keep ignoring the symptoms and just say he's sorry.
Again and again.
Eventually, will anybody listen?