At the annual Rookie Symposium, those players new to the NFL are directed to make the most of their opportunities, and there are always a few negative examples used -- those who didn't appreciate their gifts and threw them away for a variety of reasons. This year's draft class got a live example when Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon, drafted fifth overall out of Oklahoma State, was stopped in Stillwater, Okla., last Sunday morning. Blackmon blew a .24 blood alcohol level when a breathalyzer test was administrated; that is three times the legal limit. Because his BAC was over .15, he was charged with aggravated DUI -- not a good move for a player who hasn't even signed his rookie contract yet.
"First off, I want to openly apologize to [Jaguars general manager] Gene [Smith], to Mr. Khan [owner Shad Khan] and his family and [head] coach [Mike] Mularkey and the whole organization, teammates, everyone that with my poor judgment over the weekend brought bad press to," Blackmon said to open a Wednesday press conference to discuss the incident. "I want to apologize to fans or people that looked up to me, that because of what I did, the decision I made over the weekend, that might be questioning who I am now. I just want to apologize for that and just let people know that it's not who I am, it's not who I am going to be. Just like talked with coach yesterday and Gene, I'm looking to make things better and I will continue to do that, starting yesterday on."
Blackmon couldn't talk about the case, but he did acknowledge that he has made poor choices in the past -- he has another DUI on his record from 2010.
"I do not," he said, when asked if he has a problem with alcohol. "I just think I made a poor choice. I put myself in a bad situation. It's completely my fault, and I just gotta make better judgment on that ... It's the same thing. I'm going to have to grow from it. I can't go back and change the situation. I'm just going to have to build on it from here."
And would this incident cause him to stay away from alcohol altogether? "I'm done as far as right now," he said. "I'm done with all of that." But he didn't rule out drinking in the future, which sounds kinda weird. "I can't promise you 10 years down the road that I'm going to be done. I just know as of right now, and for what I can speak of, I'm looking forward to getting ready to play football and put this in the past."
Smith also spoke at the press conference, and this has to be especially embarrassing for him and the organization. The Jaguars do not have a positive record with receivers selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Drafted in 2004, Washington's Reggie Williams washed out of the league, later finding himself on the wrong end of a Taser in one of many alcohol and drug-related incidents. One year later, the Jags took converted quarterback Matt Jones, who was decidedly not ready for prime time -- his ineffectiveness on the field and drama away from the game mirrored Williams' to an eerie degree. All the right things were said about vetting future draft picks to make sure this never happened again. And while Blackmon appears to be more talented than either Williams or Jones, one has to wonder if this isn't deja vu all over again.
"I can tell you I don't work for the FBI, but we try to emulate some of the things that I think it takes by people who do investigative work to get some of the answers to your questions done," Smith said of the pre-draft screening work done by his team. "It's a process that we go through with every player. Certainly, it's done in-depth. You try to know everything on every player, especially the ones you're going to target to take. But again, there's a league process, the security checks, and then there's the team process."
Suspecting that he would feel twice-burned about a player with Blackmon's incident history, one member of the media asked Smith if he would have selected Blackmon had this happened two months ago. "Again, I'd have to evaluate the situation at the time, take all things into consideration. Certainly you know from my history, I look at patterns of players coming out of college. Not just off the field, but on the field. We want positive patterns of behavior and performance ... What we do in our process is we determine guys who we consider take-able for the Jaguars, for character reasons and for medical reasons, but I'm not going to get into the specifics of how we do that."
Perhaps most disconcerting about Blackmon's choice to do what he did is that he was in attendance last Friday -- just two days before he was popped for the DUI -- when Mularkey brought two Jacksonville attorneys to the team facility to talk to the players about the legal ramifications of decisions like the one Blackmon made.
"Two attorneys from town… talked about not just alcohol but guns, speeding, all the things that if you don't do it right these are the consequences of your actions," Mularkey said, per ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky. "That's what's frustrating. It was just presented that Friday morning and we had an incident over the weekend.
From here on out, it's about the confidence Blackmon earns back from the team, and the amount the team is able to place in him. Once again, Smith has put his personal and professional reputation on a risky number -- now, he's on the hot seat if this doesn't work out.
"I've done so much work on him, our organization, scouts and coaches have done so much work," Smith said on Wednesday. "Other people in this building, too. And I see the family support system. I see what we have in place here, and I see a young player that's got to learn from this mistake and change the way he leads his life. If he does that, he's got a legitimate opportunity to, like Mike Mularkey said, have a happy ending to all this."
For his sake, and for Blackmon's, Smith had better hope so.