JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Justin Blackmon’s latest violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy will cost him money — maybe lots of it.
The league suspended Blackmon on Tuesday for the first four games of the 2013 season for his second violation in less than a year. He will not get paid for the four-week hiatus. Maybe more importantly, the suspension triggers language in his contract that voids future guarantees.
Now, the Jaguars could cut him without having to pay about $10 million that remains on a four-year, $18.5 million contract.
“It’s very disappointing,” general manager Dave Caldwell said on a conference call with reporters. “We understand that this isn’t all going to be an upward trend and we’re going to have setbacks. To be honest with you, things like this are frustrating because it’s an avoidable situation. That’s what’s real concerning and frustrating. At the end of the day, we’re going to have 53 players on our team on opening day and we’re just moving forward and we’re not slowing down.”
It’s Blackmon’s third substance-related incident in less than three years. He was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge in Texas in 2010 after officers caught him speeding on a suburban Dallas highway. The charge was later reduced to an underage alcohol possession charge. A little more than a month after the Jaguars traded up to select the former Oklahoma State star with the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, he was arrested during a traffic stop in Stillwater, Okla., after a breath test allegedly showed his blood alcohol content to be three times the legal limit.
That arrest landed him the NFL’s substance-abuse program.
It’s unclear what caused his second violation, but it could have been a failed drug test.
“He realizes he’s at a crossroad, not only in his career but in his life,” Caldwell said. “We do not anticipate his level of accountability to be any different than anybody else in this franchise, including myself.”
Blackmon vowed last June that getting in trouble is “not who I’m going to be.”
He found himself apologizing again Tuesday.
“I’ve made a mistake and I have no excuse,” he said in a statement. “I am truly sorry and disappointed in myself for putting the Jaguars in this situation, and I look forward to putting this behind me and maturing and growing as a person. I will have a productive training camp and preseason with my team, and during the suspension, I will work hard to stay in top football shape and be ready to help the Jaguars when I return.
“I have chosen to be accountable for my poor decision, and I sincerely apologize to my teammates, coaches, the front office and Jaguars fans for the impact of my mistake on the team.”
Blackmon, who caught 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie, will miss games against Kansas City, Oakland, Seattle and Indianapolis. He will be eligible to return to practice Monday, Sept. 30. He will be allowed to attend meetings and be inside the facility during the suspension, but can’t practice or play.
“We are here to help and support him,” Caldwell said. “There’s only so much we can do under the CBA in terms of helping a player. At some point in time, these players have to help themselves and take care of themselves.”
Caldwell declined to say when the Jaguars learned about Blackmon’s suspension or the possibility of it.
The Jaguars seemingly had an indication before the draft. They selected former South Carolina receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders in the fourth round and former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in the fifth. Robinson will be used at running back and slot receiver.
Jacksonville also has Mohamed Massaquoi, Jordan Shipley, Taylor Price and others vying for the starting spot opposite Cecil Shorts III.
“We know that we’re not going to have 53 angelic players,” Caldwell said. “But there’s no excuse for not doing the right thing. These guys were young guys in college; now they’re professionals, they’re a reflection of the Jacksonville Jaguars and our community here and we don’t take this thing lightly.”