Thursday, July 24, 2014
Shad Khan says Jags won't cut Blackmon
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Justin Blackmon's latest arrest has done nothing to change the Jacksonville Jaguars' plans regarding the former first-round pick’s status with the team: They aren’t going to cut him.
Owner Shad Khan, speaking after the team’s Back to Football charity luncheon on Thursday afternoon, said he was disappointed to hear the news of Blackmon’s third arrest but said he plans on keeping the troubled Blackmon on the team’s reserve/suspended list.
"I think we want to keep him as a player," Khan said. "He’s not part of the team, obviously, but I think it’s very important for him to get the help. I think that’s the most important thing.
"I think it’s good for him to be [under contract with the team] and frankly it’s good for us. We want him to get the help and really beat this."
Justin Blackmon had 29 receptions in the four games in which he was available last season.
It appears, however, that Blackmon doesn’t, and that’s why the team should cut the former Oklahoma State standout.
General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have repeatedly said they care about Blackmon and want him to receive help to get his life in order. There are numerous resources available for Blackmon to get help through the NFL and the NFL Players Association, whether it’s counseling or help finding a treatment center. In order to get better, Blackmon first has to admit that he has a problem and wants to get better, and it's clear he isn't willing to do that.
Players in the NFL's substance-abuse program are subject to additional random drug testing. Testing positive will result in additional penalties, possibly even a lifetime ban. Blackmon knows that, yet he still made the decision to smoke marijuana while driving, which eventually resulted in his arrest in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Wednesday evening.
Either Blackmon has a more serious problem with substance abuse than many believed or he just doesn’t care. It appears to be more the latter based on the fact Blackmon maintained minimal contact with the team after being suspended indefinitely on Nov. 1. NFL rules prohibit teams from contacting suspended players, but players can contact the team, and the Jaguars had hoped Blackmon would keep them informed of his progress and whereabouts.
He did neither, aside from an occasional text to Bradley. It was disappointing because the Jaguars believed Blackmon had made progress during his four-game suspension to start the 2013 season. A new NFL rule allowed Blackmon to be with the team during his suspension for meetings (no practice or games), and Bradley and Blackmon met almost daily. Bradley said he was encouraged by their deeper relationship and said he believed Blackmon was heading in the right direction.
That is obviously not the case based on what happened Wednesday in Oklahoma.
The Jaguars have perfectly logical reasons for not cutting Blackmon. He is serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse program, which means he isn’t being paid and doesn’t count against the salary cap or roster limit. His career essentially is paused, meaning he still owes the team 2˝ years of service if he ever were to return. Plus, if the Jaguars do cut him they will be unable to recover any bonus money they have already paid.
However, those are football reasons and this is no longer an on-field issue. It’s about making a stand that the kind of behavior in which Blackmon is engaging is unacceptable. The Jaguars stood by and supported him through his May 2012 arrest, his four-game suspension and the current indefinite suspension. That is enough chances, more than many of us would receive if we found ourselves in the same situation.
Blackmon has become an embarrassment to a franchise that is riding a huge swell of momentum and positive energy thanks to the EverBank Field renovations and the enthusiasm surrounding draft picks Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Forget the money and the slim chance that he will turn things around and become the player he was projected to be. The best thing for the franchise at this point is to cut Blackmon loose.