Blackmon's back and ready to help

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Several of Justin Blackmon's teammates said they were excited about seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars receiver on the practice field Wednesday for the first time this season.

That’s not even close to what Blackmon is feeling.

"I’m probably more excited than anybody," Blackmon said. "I’m just ready to get it going."

Blackmon hasn’t practiced with his teammates since Aug. 28, the day before the team’s final preseason game, because he was serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. NFL rules allowed him to attend meetings and work out at the facility but he was barred from practicing.

Blackmon has added eight pounds of muscle and said he’s in the best shape of his career. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was impressed when he and Blackmon spent some time playing catch on Tuesday.

"It was nice to get back out on our own team’s facility yesterday and throw to one of our guys," Gabbert said. "It was great work and he looked great. He’s in the best shape I’ve seen him in. He’s really worked hard with our strength staff and the trainers to get his body where he wants it to be so he can come in and play right away."

The Jaguars certainly need Blackmon’s help. They are averaging just 7.8 points and 175.0 passing yards per game. They’ve been outscored 75-8 in the first half and have thrown only one touchdown pass in four games.

Cecil Shorts has caught 26 passes for 337 yards, but the bulk of that has come in the second half when the games have already been decided. Defenses have shut him down in the first half. Having Blackmon, who had a team-high 64 catches for 865 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie last season, means defenses cannot focus on just stopping Shorts any longer.

"He’s definitely going to help our offense because he’s an explosive player and very, very fun to play with," Shorts said.

Coach Gus Bradley said he was impressed with the way Blackmon handled himself during the suspension. The two talked regularly and Blackmon did everything Bradley and the team asked him to do, whether it was working in the community or working out at the facility, and stayed out of trouble.

"I’m very glad to be back," Blackmon said. "It was very frustrating just sitting there watching the team play."

But the pressure remains on Blackmon because another violation of the substance abuse policy means a year’s suspension.

"The challenge is still there, though," Bradley said. "The competition for him to get better during those four weeks was asked of him; now continue. But he’s been awesome.

"He’s heading in the right direction so we are optimistic."