JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Justin Blackmon’s indefinite suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy leaves a void in the Jaguars’ passing offense.
However, none of Blackmon’s teammates care about that. They’re more concerned with making sure the second-year receiver from Oklahoma State receives the help he needs to overcome whatever problem he has.
"It’s not about us, you know what I mean?" Shorts said. "It’s not about the football, the NFL, Jacksonville. It’s about him and him getting better, and that’s all that I care about. Football is going to be here forever, but it’s life after that.
"He needs to really take care of himself and get better and I think he’s doing the right thing right now."
Monday was the first day the Jaguars have been together since the league announced Blackmon’s suspension on Friday afternoon. There was a sense of disappointment and frustration in the locker room, but also concern for Blackmon, who by all accounts is well-liked and a good teammate.
"You hate to see that happen," center Brad Meester said. "We’re standing behind him and hoping that he can get some help because obviously it’s about more than football so we’re hoping that he can get the help and get his life straight.
"Nobody’s mad at him. That’s not what this is about. This is about him getting help and getting his life right. That’s the most important thing."
Quarterback Chad Henne said he believed Blackmon, who missed the first four games of the season because of a second violation of the substance abuse policy and has two alcohol-related arrests in his past, was a changed person. Henne said Blackmon was in the facility early putting in extra work and seemed to be doing everything the coaching staff asked of him.
That’s why Friday’s announcement took him a little by surprise.
"I think it was frustration, but a little bit of disappointment because he has come a long way," Henne said. "It’s just a shame. We can only support him from here on out."
Receiver Stephen Burton, who will be one of the players who must fill in for Blackmon, said he wasn’t angry at Blackmon for letting the team down, but he did say the decision that Blackmon made that resulted in his suspension was a little selfish -- but he added that no one generally thinks about how their decisions will impact their team.
"It’s a team thing and it was kind of selfish, but we all have our own choices and make our own decisions," Burton said. "I’m pretty sure when he made the decision he wasn’t so much thinking about the team, but that happens. You don’t always go out and do what you do thinking about the best interest [of the team]. Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes you’re wrong place, wrong time. Some things are out of your control. It wasn’t a letdown. It was just really shocking."
Coach Gus Bradley has met with Blackmon several times each week since training camp started and said Blackmon has made significant strides in attitude, work ethic, and the way he conducts himself. Bradley said he trusted Blackmon but doesn’t feel betrayed by his latest suspension.
"I wish I could explain everything to you, what took place," Bradley said. "Obviously I am disappointed. I am disappointed in what took place, but I think if I can say this: There’s something bigger out there that we’re working on with him."