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Bradley hopes Blackmon headed in right direction


JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley said no question he was disappointed.

But the Jaguars' first-year head coach said while that was a real part of his reaction to the suspension of wide receiver Justin Blackmon, that wasn't the most important part.

Most important is the person involved, which Bradley said is his focus – and the focus of the Jaguars' organization.

"Obviously I'm disappointed, but there's something bigger out there that we're working on with him," Bradley told reporters Monday.

Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, on Friday was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The suspension began immediately, and Blackmon will be eligible to apply to the NFL for reinstatement prior to the start of the 2014 season.

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said Friday the team had no plans to cut ties immediately with Blackmon, saying it wasn't in the team's "nature to just turn our back on one of our members that needs our help."

Bradley, speaking on Monday for the first time since the suspension was announced, talked more about Blackmon personally than his pending absence on the field.

"My whole purpose on this to be honest with you is away from football," Bradley said. "I just looked at him as a person, and what we needed to do to help him in the right direction. I think some of this that was facilitated through the NFL will guide him in the right direction."

Blackmon, who played collegiately at Oklahoma State, was arrested on DUI charges in June 2012 before his rookie season. He caught 64 passes for 865 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, but was suspended four games to start the 2013 season. He caught 29 passes for 415 yards and a touchdown in four games this season.

"I thought he was doing some really good things for us," Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne said. "In my eyes, he was a changed person. Whatever happened, I'm not sure. We can only help support him and guide him through these tough times.

"It was frustration and a little disappointment, because he has come such a long way. He was doing the right things. He was in here when I was in here in the mornings, doing everything coaches asked him to do. It's just a shame. We can only support him."

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, who said he spoke with Blackmon Saturday, said his concern was more about Blackmon off the field than the impact of his absence on the team.

"It's not about us," Shorts said. "It's not about the football, the NFL, Jacksonville – it's about him and him getting better. That's all I care about. Football's going to be here forever. It's life after that. He needs to take care of himself and get better and I think he's doing the right thing."

Caldwell said Friday he believed the suspension could prove a positive for Blackmon.

"I agree," Shorts said. "I think it will be a positive thing for him, especially because he's so young. He's 23. This will be very good for him."

Bradley said while NFL rules limit how specific he could be discussing Blackmon, the focus is on "what do we have to do to get him right." Bradley said since his hiring in January he has seen progress from Blackmon, and that the second-year wide receiver improved as a teammate this season.

"I think from March when I first met him, to get to this position, we have seen changes," Bradley said. "We have seen some things. I don't know if the direction he's going now could have been taken in June. I think we have him to the point now where he's ready to take the next step and we will see."

Bradley talked during the offseason of Blackmon having earned his trust, and said Monday he feels good about the conversations he and Blackmon had during the offseason. Bradley also said he believed Jaguars players did a "good job" working with Blackmon in the offseason and during the season.

"I can just say that it was a team effort to get him to where he is today," Bradley said. "That's fair enough – to get him to where he is today and to where he is more open. That part of it I felt good and I think our team gets a lot of credit for them helping with that. … He was a good teammate. On the field what we saw here and if you talk to anybody on the team they would say that they enjoyed him, they enjoyed him as a teammate and enjoyed what he brought to the team."

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