When the conversation turns toward the best receivers in the NFL, the names Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green usually are going to be proffered pretty quickly.
In a parallel universe where man has solved our addiction crisis, you get the feeling that Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon would also be involved.
In the case of Gordon, that’s an almost definitive take, as you got a quick glimpse of what it might have been like for the league’s defensive backs when he returned from one of his suspensions to lead the NFL in receiving with 1,646 yards in 2013, despite missing the first two games of the season.
Gordon is only 26 years old and has consistently been at least paying lip service toward getting back on the football field despite missing the past two seasons and virtually all of the prior three while struggling with his demons.
Blackmon, meanwhile, is only about eight months older than Gordon, but the former No. 5-overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Oklahoma State has essentially tapped out of his one-time profession, either uninterested in jumping through the hoops it takes to play in the NFL or more concerned with his personal well being.
Like Gordon, Blackmon tantalized for a bit by snaring 64 receptions for 865 yards for Jacksonville during his rookie campaign. By his sophomore season, two violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy put Blackmon on the shelf for three-quarters of that season, and he hasn’t been back since.
A marijuana arrest in his native Oklahoma sent Blackmon searching for rehab in 2014, but two subsequent DUI arrests highlight the struggle is still ongoing, and the wideout remains indefinitely suspended by the NFL.
No one in Jacksonville expects Blackmon, who hasn’t played a meaningful down for the Jags in almost four years, back at any point, and it’s rare to even hear his name mentioned unless it relates to a pending legal matter.
For Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone, neither of whom were on the First Coast when Blackmon was brought in, Blake Bortles’ top targets for the foreseeable future are Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, with a little Dede Westbrook thrown in.
The itch of what might have been popped up again recently when the Tulsa World spotted Blackmon at a football camp he sponsored in his hometown of Ardmore, Oklahoma.
According to the newspaper, Blackmon, while rockin’ a hoodie and navy crocs, was engaged while coaching the kids, and even took pictures and signed autographs after the camp. He declined to speak to the media, however, perhaps wanting to keep the public part of his struggle in mothballs.
When it comes to the NFL at this point with Blackmon, it will always be about the promise that was never delivered:
In my humble opinion. If Justin Blackmon was playing and healthy he would easily be in the top tier of wide receivers! Top 5 in my opinion.
— Cecil Shorts III (@CecilShortsIII) June 16, 2017
This stopped being a story about the Jaguars or the professional football years ago, however, when it morphed into a personal struggle with addiction and recovery.
When you look at things through that kind of lens, seeing Blackmon back on a field trying to help some kids was a positive story.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen.
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