JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars aren't giving up on Justin Blackmon.
That was the main message from Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell late Friday afternoon in the wake of the news that Blackmon had been suspended indefinitely without pay for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
"We're just not going to cut ties with him today," Caldwell said.
Blackmon's suspension begins immediately, and he will be eligible to apply for reinstatement prior to the start of the 2014 season, according to the NFL.
Blackmon, who missed the first four games of the regular season under league-mandated suspension, may not be at the team's facility or attend meetings during his suspension.
"Justin needs support right now," Caldwell said in a teleconference with local media around 5:30 p.m. Friday, shortly after the suspension was announced. "This has never really been about Justin Blackmon the player. It's been about Justin Blackmon the person.
"It's not in our nature to just turn our back on one of our members that needs our help."
Blackmon, a wide receiver from Oklahoma State and the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, was arrested on DUI charges in June 2012 before playing his entire rookie season and catching 64 passes for 865 yards and seven touchdowns.
He was then suspended four games to start this season, catching 29 passes for 415 yards and a touchdown in four games since returning.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley had spoken positively of Blackmon on several occasions in recent months, praising him for his dedication and approach during his suspension.
"We've made great strides with Justin here in the last four or five months," Caldwell said. "We thought we were making good strides and we've had a setback here… It's a complicated matter. I think Justin wanted to do the right thing and I think he tried really hard to do the right thing and sometimes people just need to take a break and need more help than what we can provide him, and this break from football is probably going to be a really good thing for Justin and his well-being, which is always our No. 1 priority."
Caldwell said while it's the Jaguars' hope that Blackmon returns, "the first thing we need to address is Justin's well-being and ensure that he takes care of himself the person so he can be a good person in the community, whatever community that may be, first, and then secondly address football, which is not the priority right now for Justin Blackmon."
While Blackmon was allowed to be around the team during his season-opening suspension, Caldwell specified that's not the case with this suspension.
"We're still working through some of the logistics of that, in terms of making sure he does get his help," Caldwell said. "The help will come from himself, but we are going to make sure that he gets the help he needs and the direction he needs to get the best help out there."
Caldwell added of Blackmon's reaction to the current suspension, "Justin has taken this news very hard, as you can imagine. So you know he cares. He is willing to take the correct steps to make sure that he does not make bad decisions anymore. That is a big step for Justin and I believe that if he does the right things and takes the right steps here in the short term that in the long term he's going to be better off for it."
Blackmon's absence leaves the Jaguars with Cecil Shorts III, Mike Brown, Ace Sanders, Stephen Burton and Stephen Williams at wide receiver. Caldwell said with five receivers on the 53-man roster there's not an urgent need to sign another immediately.
"Justin's a very good football player," Caldwell said. "When you lose a player of his magnitude, somebody else is going to have to step up. We're just going to have to find a way to get on track here. It's only a distraction if we allow it to be and coach Bradley is not going to allow it be a distraction.
"Coach Bradley and I, we look at it as a great opportunity to overcome a situation that's been presented to us. And when we look back on situations like this in the future, we're going to remember how tough it was and how rewarding it's going to be when we get to where we want to be."