Monday was not the best day for the Jacksonville Jaguars and fans of Jimmy Smith, the former great who was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of cocaine possession and the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Smith will serve his time in Jackson, Mississippi. It is part of a long laundry list of issues Smith has had on and off the playing field since his time with the Jaguars and life after football.
Smith, the Jaguars' all-time leader in receptions, was just part of the news that surrounded the team as they began OTAs at EverBank Field.
For the first time since he was suspended by the league for a violation of its drug policy, wide receiver Justin Blackmon met with the media, answering questions about football, but also defending himself for the infractions that he violated while still on probation for an aggravated DUI charge last year right after he was drafted by the team and before he signed his professional contract with the franchise.
The guaranteed money which was outlined in the contract is now in question as this is Blackmon’s second offense in less than two years.
Smith and Blackmon took different roads to the NFL, but both have crossed paths, if not in real time, then in reality. Two star-crossed receivers from Jacksonville, who have failed to live up to expectations off the field. Smith, when on the field, was one of the greatest ever to play the position. Blackmon, when on the field, has shown glimpses of that greatness that warranted a fifth overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Both have Hall of Fame talent. Smith will never be inducted. Blackmon still can if he gets his act together.
While the league will forget about Smith for the time being, Blackmon is very much on the minds of the Jaguars, the media, the fans and this writer.
According to Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports, Blackmon was asked a simple question after practice on Monday, which led to a firestorm of controversy in how his answer was defended.
The question, "Do you have a drinking problem or substance-abuse problem?,” was met with the usual answer Blackmon has given before, having faced this song and dance by the media when he appeared in an Oklahoma Courtroom after blowing .26 on a breathalyzer, last summer.
Blackmon looked at the media and told them what he thought was the best answer for the question asked and hoped the barrage of questions would go away.
"Out of this whole thing one of the main things I would say that I had a problem with was just making a poor decision, making a selfish decision at that and not thinking about the long term of it and just thinking about at the time," Blackmon said following the team's first organized team activity. "If you want to ask if I have a problem? I have a problem with making a poor decision."
Regardless of the situation, a 23-year-old kid with money, fame and time on his hands could use that fortune to do the wrong things. We have seen it before with other athletes. Only this time, Blackmon’s teammate Maurice Jones-Drew came to his defense and said the issue really is a “non-issue” concerning the suspension.
"He's fine," Jones-Drew said. "He's a young kid who's made some mistakes. He's 22, 23 years old. With him, it's magnified because of who he is."
Jones-Drew’s cavalier attitude may be one to just brush the subject off, but as this writer sees it, athletes who do these kinds of things get second and third chances. Employees in the real world are fired for those kinds of actions.
Jones-Drew seems to think all is right when in fact, it isn’t. One has to ask who is helping Blackmon? What kind of counseling is he getting? Who is serving as his mentor (I sure hope it is not MJD) and where does he go from here?
Certainly, one more violation will be a year’s suspension and possibly a release by a team that could use his all-world services.
The choice, ultimately, comes down to Blackmon and his desire to be better, to not be a Jimmy Smith down the road.
The article on Yahoo! also stated that “Last summer, when he was pulled over in Oklahoma at 3 a.m., Blackmon blew a 0.24 – three times the legal limit in that state. That's a lot of alcohol, and that should have been enough of a wake-up call for someone with so much on the line.” and that at the time, he stated, "Right now, I'm done with all that."
What a difference a year makes. It also says volumes about what Jones-Drew thinks of the situation and the flippant tone in his comments, like alcoholism or breaking the law is not a big deal. Jones-Drew should be a leader on this club and remains the franchise’s biggest draw. Comments like this cannot help a young and fledgling franchise grow.
All it does is show how people’s ideas about right and wrong can cloud a situation and make it more difficult to deal with in the future.
Hopefully, the Jaguars will not have to deal with Blackmon and this problem again.