On the eve of their first training camp practice, the Jacksonville Jaguars were hit with a piece of troubling news about one of their players who was already on indefinite suspension by the NFL.
Wide receiver Justin Blackmon, a repeat violator of the league’s substance-abuse policy, was arrested Wednesday evening in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond on a complaint of marijuana possession. A police spokeswoman said Blackmon, a first-round draft pick by the Jaguars in 2012 out of Oklahoma State, admitted he had smoked ”a blunt” while driving and had another in his vehicle.
Asked at a press conference Thursday morning in Jacksonville about Blackmon, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said ”it’s unfortunate news” but added ”we haven’t had much contact with him.” When Blackmon was suspended last November, one of the conditions was that no one in the organization would be allowed to communicate with him by any way other than text message.
Bradley appeared caught off guard by the news and offered no hint as to what sort of future, if any, Blackmon would have with the Jaguars.
”We haven’t discussed that at this point,” he said. ”Really, our focus has been on the team that’s here right now.”
Following a charity kickoff luncheon later in the day, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said the team has no plans to release Blackmon.
”We want to keep him as a player,” Khan said. ”He’s not part of the team now, obviously, but it’s very important for him to get the help. It’s the most important thing.”
Both Bradley and quarterback Chad Henne expressed concern about Blackmon that also went beyond football-related matters.
”It’s just a difficult situation. All we can do is pray that he finds a way and gets on the right track,” said Henne, the starter in 19 games during his two years with the Jaguars and the clear-cut first-stringer ahead of rookie Blake Bortles going into camp.
”Right now, I’m just praying that he can get the help that he needs,” Bradley said.
The news about Blackmon, who was booked into the Edmond jail and posted $657 bond, came less than 24 hours after the Jaguars learned they will be without second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders for the first four games of the regular season. Sanders violated the same policy as Blackmon but received a shorter suspension because this was his first offense.
Echoing comments he made Wednesday in an interview with the team’s website, Bradley said he was ”really happy for Ace” and described how Sanders took the initiative in disclosing the matter to him and general manager Dave Caldwell as ”very impressive.”
Blackmon holds the franchise single-season record for receptions by a rookie with 64. Sanders ranks second on that list with 51.
Although Blackmon played in only four regular-season games last season, his talent was on full display in one of them. His 14 catches against the Denver Broncos were the most by a member of the Jaguars since 2000, and his 190 receiving yards were the fifth-highest total in team history. Blackmon had a 236-yard game as a rookie against the Houston Texans.
When Henne was asked when he last heard from Blackmon, he said, ”Not for a while. It’s kind of been hard with us not being able to communicate with him.”