JACKSONVILLE – The support system is in place, and the steps are clear.
Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars' wide receiver who for a second time in two offseasons on Monday spent time explaining and apologizing for off-field issues, said what's next for him is clear:
Lean on the support system, and take the right steps.
Blackmon, who has been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 regular season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, said taking those right steps primarily means making better choices in the future than he has in the past.
"I just have to make better decisions," Blackmon said Monday following the first of 10 organized team activities practices scheduled in May and June at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
"My problem is I made selfish decisions. I apologize for that. I apologize to my teammates and apologize to my family. It's something I did and I take full responsibility for it."
Blackmon, who played collegiately at Oklahoma State, started 15 of 16 games last season, setting franchise rookie records with 64 receptions for 866 yards and tying the franchise rookie record with five touchdown receptions. He had been arrested the previous June – a little more than a month after the draft – for driving under the influence.
Teammates on Monday said they continue to support Blackmon, and that their relationship with the No. 5 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft hadn't changed.
"We're all supporting him," third-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts said.
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew, entering his eighth season and the second-most tenured player on the offense along with tight end Marcedes Lewis, said he has had "multiple talks" with Blackmon.
"He'll be fine," Jones-Drew said, adding that teammates see a situation such as Blackmon's differently than fans or media may view it.
"The media blows it out of proportion," Jones-Drew said. "He made a mistake. A lot of people make several mistakes. We all have questions we have to answer."
Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell had said upon the team announcing the suspension last week that Blackmon was at a crossroads in life and his career. Blackmon said Monday he agreed with the assessment.
"It is one (a crossroads)," he said. "I'm looking to get past it and put it in the past."
He also said the Jaguars' decision-makers, Head Coach Gus Bradley and Caldwell, have been supportive since learning of the suspension. He referred to Caldwell and Bradley as part of his "support group."
Blackmon said his best way of avoiding future issues is to rely on those people.
"I just have to lean on my support group," Blackmon said. "David and Gus have been very supportive. I go down there and talk to them almost every day."
Blackmon said he believes there are plenty of people in the Jaguars' organization to serve as support in his situation.
"There are people in the locker room, then there are people down the hallway," he said. "Like I said, Gus and Dave both have been there one hundred percent. I can talk to them at any moment to see that everything is going good.
"The support group is good here, and I'm happy with who we've got in this locker room."
Blackmon said he is still dealing with having let his teammates down, and that he will continue to do so.
"Until it's done with, I guess I will," he said.
Blackmon said he spoke with teammates as a group last week and since often speaks with players individually. While a one-year suspension is possible for future violations in the substance abuse program, he said he is confident there won't be further issues.
"I don't think anybody wants to be in the position I'm in right now," Blackmon said. "I'm not going to say I want to be in this position, because it's not where I want to be. All I can do is come out here every day and get better each day. Coach Gus says every day, 'Today's the most important day.' That's all I can do, come out there and try to improve, and take care of everything else as it comes.
"Overall, it's just making better decisions. I can't change what people say about me, or what they're feeling. All I can control is what I can control."