We wanted to go away from all-Justin Blackmon all the time.
It's still not possible, not with the topic continuing to dominate the in-box. He will address the issue at a press conference today. Sometime soon after that, we'll get back to normal stuff. Until then . . .
Let's get to it . . . Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
Guess Gene's "trust your board" mantra did not work out too well considering Blackmon already had one DUI. Bottom line is the dude has a drinking problem and Gene's "due diligence" was negligent. Throw in Marcedes with "Baby Mama Drama" excuse for last year's pathetic season, denial of Branch contract, and everyone holding hands playing Paintball - and it makes you wonder just what is going on around there. Just sayin'.
John: Really? Paintball? A planned team-building exercise that has nothing to do with any of the other things of which you speak. That's your criticism? Branch's contract being denied was a relatively common incident that was corrected and not-unexpectedly approved. Obviously, Lewis had a difficult season last season, but as for blaming Smith for Blackmon, do that if you want, but all general managers can do is do their research and trust what they find. I get that Smith's due diligence could be questioned by observers, but if you know anything about him, you know diligence – due or otherwise – isn't a problem.
Nathan from Richmond, VA:
In an NFL.com article entitled 'Justin Blackmon has issues, but Jaguars didn't make a mistake' by Daniel Jeremiah, Jeremiah writes: "...Gene Smith has earned a reputation around the league as an extremely meticulous, detail-oriented general manager. I've been on school visits with Jaguars scouts who have spent 15 minutes grilling an equipment manager for information on a player who doesn't even start for his school. They go above and beyond normal protocol when researching draft prospects..." Sometimes, people do things that you don't believe they would.
John: Nothing to add. Just don't expect Frank from St. Augustine to buy it.
William from Jacksonville:
When are OTAs open to public?
John: Organized team activities actually ended last week, but the final two practices of next week's mini-camp are scheduled to be open to the public. The dates for the open practices are Wednesday and Thursday, June 13 and 14, with the Wednesday practice scheduled 3:30-5:30 and the Thursday practice scheduled 11:15-12:30.
Jakes from Jacksonville:
What is the atmosphere around Jaguar players and coaches about the new Blackmon issue? Are they trying to stay positive? Concern? Disappointment?
John: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Tim from St. Petersburg, FL:
John: This kid made a mistake. Hopefully he can recover. We don't need to look further than Coach Cullen to see that people make mistakes, learn from them and succeed.
John: I think that's a pretty sound analogy. The Jaguars easily could have passed on Cullen when they hired him, and Cullen could have tried to duck his issue. Instead, he addressed it and the Jaguars took something of a chance on him and the result is Cullen has developed into one of the strongest position coaches on the team. One mistake doesn't have to define a person's life. How a person reacts to that mistake can.
Scott from Section 139 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
Two DUIs in two years does constitute a drinking problem especially with his blood alcohol level .27. Anyone who says otherwise is grossly mistaken. Certainly, I am not saying he will not pan out as an athlete but he clearly needs counseling and help to quit drinking altogether. I would hate to see him end up in a DUI motor vehicle accident the next time like some previous high-profile NFL players have in the past. The focus really should be on him eliminating drinking not just so he can be a great football player but so he doesn't end up injuring someone when behind the wheel. What do you think?
John: I think I addressed this Tuesday. I think that I'm not a doctor, and that I'm not Justin Blackmon, so it would be arrogant and a bit self-righteous of me to try to say for sure what he needs.
Tony from Perry, AK:
I hope Justin realizes how fortunate he is to have Fred in his corner during all this. Fred is a class act. I hope Justin takes the advice, gets back up, and moves on.
John: Fred Taylor is indeed a class act, and I thought his thoughts on Blackmon were intriguing. Former players often have better perspectives on these issues than fans, because former players know that the story is sometimes not as extreme or cut-and-dry as a newspaper headline or a 140-character Tweet. In Taylor's case, I think when he spoke with Blackmon he saw a guy who was more than a DUI and more than a single incident. It's easy to forget that when a story is dominating the headlines. I was glad Taylor was able to shed some light on that Tuesday.
Jory from Kodiak, AK:
Hey John, I read an article that is actually suggesting the Jaguars are going to consider releasing Blackmon, this isn't serious, right?
John: No, it's not.
Justin from Section 133:
Positive reinforcement is for times when something is worth reinforcing. This is not that time. I hope he grows up and is a long time great Jaguar. But, he's starting off on the wrong foot.
John: Yes, it was a bad start. It would have been hard to have a worse start. But Fred Taylor said on Tuesday that Blackmon is part of the Jaguars family now, and my guess is that when Blackmon speaks today he'll talk a bit about having realized that the last two days. Sometimes, incidents like this wake people up. Sometimes, how people react to incidents like this wake people up. Maybe that will be the case for Blackmon.
Scott from Jacksonville:
I keep hearing that Blackmon was previously arrested for a DUI a year or two earlier. Do you know why his first arrest was not known? And since this will be his second DUI, why would the NFL treat it as a first offense?
John: I'm confused about the confusion on this matter. Blackmon's first DUI was public knowledge. He was suspended a game at Oklahoma State. He addressed it publicly. It wasn't "not known." It was, in fact, very known. As for the NFL treating it like a first offense, the first occurred in college.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
John, I hope you never get a DUI.
John: Well, I hope I don't, either.
Greg from Section 122 and the Bank in Jacksonville, FL:
Okay, with Blackmon being an example, why do agents not insist these young men agree to having a "life advisor" with them at all times? Seriously, pay someone 50K a year to provide 24-hour monitoring and support for these kids to protect them from themselves. If someone had been with him they could have offered to drive and saved this young man potentially millions of dollars in lost contract revenue. Seems like a wise investment if I am agent.
John: Agents work for players, not the other way around. Would you agree to that if you were a player?
Biff from Jacksonville:
Great piece on Taylor's talk with Blackmon. Fred's comments about Justin's mental makeup stood out as the most relevant element. From coach to player, is this team mentally better than last year or is the jury still out?
John: At this point, it seems better mentally than last year. That's obviously something that won't be known until next season, but the coaching staff has emphasized focus and disciple in practice, and it seems to be a group that's buying in.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Interesting. You say that you don't believe that you've defended MJD in the past, pointing out that you said that he should have been there, and then at the end of the paragraph you defend him. Have you ever thought of going into politics?
John: No, but I have considered trying to use this column to be as balanced and truthful as possible.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
I assume that if we want a passionate fan base, then having an angry inbox is better than an empty one, right?
John: It absolutely is. That's one reason you rarely, if ever, hear me complain when fans write in complaining about a record or a loss or an incident such as the one last weekend. Most of the readers who write the O-Zone care very deeply. This is a forum to not only inform and entertain but to allow readers to ask questions, sometimes in angry, irrational fashion. What I have learned is this is an educated fan base and one that follows the team with great passion and detail. I sort of laugh sometimes when people ask if get tired of some of the angry, pointed questions. I really don't. These people care, and for the most part, they seem to use the forum – even guys like Jim from Jacksonville who aren't always crazy about the writer.