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Blackmon suspension "disappointing," Caldwell says


JACKSONVILLE – Justin Blackmon will miss the first four games of the 2013 regular season.

Blackmon, the Jaguars' first-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, has been suspended by the NFL without pay for the team's first four games of the 2013 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, the Jaguars confirmed late Tuesday afternoon.

Blackmon, the NFL's receiving yards leader among rookie wide receivers last season, will be eligible to return to the active roster on Monday, September 30 following the team's September 29 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

"It's very disappointing," first-year Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said. "We understand this isn't all going to be an upward trend and we're going to have setbacks. It's frustrating, because it's an avoidable situation – that's what's really concerning and really frustrating."

Caldwell Tuesday said he couldn't provide details about when he learned about the suspension, saying it was a league matter. He also cited confidentiality issues regarding specifics of the situation.

Blackmon is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. According to Caldwell, while he will not be able to play or practice during his suspension, he will be able to attend meetings and continue training.

"I've made a mistake and I have no excuse," Blackmon said in a statement released by the team. "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."

Caldwell, addressing the issue on a conference call with local media late Tuesday afternoon, said he and first-year Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley each had had "numerous talks" with Blackmon since being hired in January.

"Even as of late, we've had numerous talks," Caldwell said. "He realizes he's at a crossroads, not only in his career, but in his life."

Caldwell said when it comes to off-field issues, the Jaguars "preach a high level" of accountability throughout the organization, "not just with our players, but with the people inside our organization.

"We do not anticipate his level of accountability to be any different than anybody else in this franchise, including myself," Caldwell said, adding, "We hold Justin to the same accountability as everybody else. We're here to help and support him. 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 added, "We know we're not going to have 53 angelic players. 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. They are a reflection of our community here. We don't take this thing lightly."

The Jaguars have six veteran receivers on the roster aside from Blackmon; starter Cecil Shorts and veterans Jordan Shipley, Mohamed Massaquoi, Taylor Price, Toney Clemons and Mike Brown. They also drafted wide receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders from South Carolina in the third round, and Caldwell said Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson – drafted in the fifth round as a running back – also could play a receiving role.

"We feel like there's going to be good competition," he said. "We'll still look at upgrading that position, like every other position on our team, in the coming weeks and coming months. At the end of the day, we're going to have 53 players on our team on opening day. We're moving forward and we're not slowing down."

Caldwell was asked if the team had drafted with the possibility of a Blackmon suspension in mind.

"Coach Bradley and I, we plan for every scenario," Caldwell said. "We plan for injury. We plan for any situation. We try to go into camp with the best 53 players. We always have our eye on the future, but we always try and expect certain pitfalls and I'll leave it at that."

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